Is the narrative of The Handmaid’s Tale merely a reconstruction of events?
At first, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) may purely seem like a reconstruction of events. However, when examined more closely the reader can see that Atwood has used many narrative and poetic techniques. Each of these devices develop the novel into so much more than just a simple reconstruction of events, it becomes a precise and planned piece of work; a documented life experience that slowly unfolds. The reader becomes involved in the story and in Offred’s life; they go through her pain, suffering and occasional joy and trusts what she is telling them to be the truth. Yet, when the novel comes to an end, the reader is presented with another set of text, the ‘Historical Notes’. This epilogue is a record of a lecture, lead by Professor Pieixoto, about The Handmaid’s Tale. It comes to light that Offred had actually recorded this diary-like story on cassette tapes and the historian, Professor Pieixoto, had to meticulously piece it together. The Historical Notes do not serve as an answer to what happened to Offred. Ironically it does not answer any of the questions the reader may have, although this is the intent of the arrogant Professor Pieixoto. It instead provokes more questions from the reader and it questions the authenticity of the story. Thus, the reader may doubt the narrative of Offred. The novel is indeed partly a reconstruction of events, but it is also a recording of a women’s journey; a journey through her emotions, experiences and facts that she has learnt on the way.
The Historical Notes are transcripts of the proceedings of a seminar about The Handmaid’s tale. Professor MaryAnn Crescent Moon and a Historian, Professor Pieixoto, held this seminar. Pieixoto’s presentation of The Handmaid’s Tale reveals his thoughts on the subject; he believes the tale to be a literal reconstruction of events. Although he