How Appropriate to the Narrative Structure of ‘the Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Offred’s Description of Her Story as “Limping and Mutilated”?

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel which follows the story of Offred who has been involved in a sudden change in society, resulting to her being a handmaid. The story has been told from her own perspective which enables the reader to visualize the proceedings from Offred’s shoes. On the contrary, Atwood had written this novel from Offred’s point of view and only hers which restricts the reader to see the bigger picture and only trail Offred’s memories and her opinions, ultimately allowing one to see the narrative structure being “limping and mutilated”.

The novel begins in an irregular fashion as it seems that Atwood had jumped into the story. The first sentence states ‘We slept in what had once been the gymnasium’. This one sentence alone raises confusion amongst the readers mind resulting to them having more questions than answers. The significance of this is that it leads the reader to wonder; why are they sleeping in the gymnasium? Who is ‘we’? And what has happened to the gymnasium? The effect of Atwood using the technique of jumping into the story would initially force the reader to fit the pieces together, as some readers may be pessimistic which supports the argument that the narrative structure of this story is limping and mutilated. Nonetheless, others would initially see this from a different perspective as some may assume that the individuals involved in the story are in safe surroundings. Consequently, Atwood has cleverly caught the attention of the reader as one would wonder what is going to happen next in the story.

As the novel continues, Atwood begins to engage with the reader by using the senses, effectively portraying an image in the readers mind. ‘I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat’. The effect of this is that everyone is able to comprehend the smell, which allows one to engage with Offred, the narrator, and fall in her place. This expertly paints an image of the surroundings as various...
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