Historical Notes (HT)


Historical Notes

Key Structural Aspects of Handmaids tale:

  • Chronological vs Disjointed Narrative
  • Use of section titles
  • Flashbacks
  • Invented moments
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Moving between Past and Present

  • "What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth… Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be" (pg 153)
    • Chapter 24 when Offred goes back into her room and has some thinking time to herself
    • Saying that she wants to escape to the present so that she can keep the memories she has of her daughter alive
    • It is a way to escape from under society's and the strict regimes control
    • It allows her freedom
  • "I've tried to make it sound as much like her as I can. It's a way of keeping her alive!" (pg 256)
    • When talking to Moira at Jezebels
    • Saying that the language that they should use, is what is a part of society and if they repeat the same language then it’s a way of keeping that alive.
  • "I'm a refugee from the past"
    • Had to leave everything behind in the past
    • Escaping this dramatic experience
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Significance of Epigraphs


  • What is the significance of each of the quotations which make up the Epigraph?
    • "In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones" (sufi proverb)
      • Significance: it suggests that power can be secured by controlling access to scarce resources. (given the novel's preoccupation with the structures of power)
      • Also it can refer to desire: power can be secured by controlling the routes to satisfy desire
    • Extract from Genesis
      • Significance: surrogacy, bibles are restricted, idea that one of the few quotes that would be used as it promotes their society and what god wants.
      • Infertility, grounds for their society
    • Extract from Jonathan swift, a modest proposal
      • Handmaids aren't selling children for food, the fact that they are providing and reproducing children within the society.
      • Handmaids have a lack of choice
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Exploration of the Historical Notes

  • What do we discover about how life in Gilead changed after Offred's narrative end?
    • Replaced the serial polygamy common in the pre Gilead period with the older form of simultaneous polygamy practised both in early Old testament times and in the former state of Utah in the 19th century.
    • New society is not learning from the previous mistakes of the Gilead Period
    • Women are still not respected with equality within the new society despite the change of their role
    • Regardless of the changes that have occurred, it is apparent that society still looks as women as beneath their male counterparts
    • A sexist attitude is still apparent against women in society.
    • Women are still considered as inferior to men. View of women as the weaker sex and objects of sexuality.
    • The new society now looks at education to be inferior to what they now have.
    • New nations formed/changed
    • Regime knew about the birth rate
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Exploration of the Historical Notes

  • Professor Pieixoto
    • Very dismissive
    • Doesn't want to believe that Offred's account is a true one
    • Constantly questioning her identity
    • Still some sexism
    • Consistent
      • Says the commanders choose themselves, but we know that they are picked out and assigned randomly
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