Offred's Narrative - What is the purpose and function of the Historical
Notes and how do they assist your interpretation of the novel?
The historical notes are not part of Offred’s narrative, they are a
transcript of a symposium held at a university in 2195 – two hundred
years from where we left the end of Offred’s harrowing tale. The
purpose of these notes if any, is to put Offred’s narrative into a
historical purpose to help these academics understand the life of
Gilead. It seems to me that another purpose of these historical notes
is to provoke a very strong reaction in the readers who have followed
the emotional journey with the narrator Offred.
The significance of the university name ‘Denay, Nunavit’ is that
Atwood took the name from a group of people called Dene from Canada’s
North west territories and they are about to become the first
self-governing group of North American native people in an area called
Nunavit. Atwood has chosen names such as Maryann Crescent Moon and
Johnny Running Dog for the professors suggesting that the native
Americans overbear the academy which strongly contrasts with the white
male-dominated patriarchy in the Gilead times in this future world
Atwood has made the white males become the vulnerable subjects of a
study and nit the dominant rulers and scholars they once were. Also
the name of the university sounds like the sentence ‘Deny None Of it’
suggesting that Offred’s story was all true despite what my be said or
not said in the historical notes.
The purpose of the lecturer that Atwood created Professor James Darcy
Pieixto is to give readers a masculine view of Offred’s story which is
ironic due to the domineering and powerful roles that the males played
in Offred’s world and how they made her and other women feel
completely helpless, by choosing to tell her story it gives Offred the
only power she could grasp over them that was much more than just
being passive. All of this is now being analysed and retold by those
who made her feel so powerless in the first place.
This section of the novel can also be functioned to create a light
mockery towards the current academic practice and language, the male
perspective used here is typical of the historical male dominance and
perspective in academic research who also completely miss the point,
like Pieixto with Offred’s narrative.
I believe that the readers who have just finished agonising with
Offred through her tormented times to suddenly come across the
Historical Notes will find themselves offended and shocked, as I am
convinced Atwood means it to be allowing another purpose for the
historical notes, to hear Offred’s tragic life discussed in front of
an amused audience of academics who joke about it as if it was an
At the beginning of his speech we learn it was a man called Professor
Wade who gave the title of Offred’s story ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ partly
in homage to the great Geoffrey...