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The Importance Of The Narrator Of The Handmaid's Tale

1055 words - 4 pages

The Importance of the Narrator of The Handmaid's Tale


      The creation of Offred, the passive narrator of Margaret Atwood's

The Handmaid's Tale, was intentional.  The personality of the narrator in

this novel is almost as important as the task bestowed upon her.  Atwood

chooses an average women, appreciative of past times, who lacks imagination

and fervor, to contrast the typical feminist, represented in this novel by

her mother and her best friend, Moira.


      Atwood is writing for a specific audience, though through careful

examination, it can be determined that the intended audience is actually

the mass population.  Although particular groups may find The Handmaid's

Tale more enjoyable than others, the purpose of the novel is to enlighten

the general population, as opposed to being a source of entertainment.  A

specific group that may favor this novel is the women activists of the

1960's and 1970's.  This group, in which Offred's mother would be a member,

is sensitive to the censorship that women once faced and would show

interest to the "possible future" that could result.


      Offred is symbolic of "every woman".  She was conventional in prior

times, married with one daughter, a husband and a career.  She is

ambivalent to many things that may seem horrific to the reader.  On page 93,

Offred is witness to Janine's confession of being raped.  She doesn't

comment on how the blame is placed on Janine.  Is this because Offred has

begun to accept the words of Aunt Lydia, or more likely, is she silent to

create emphasis on the horrific deed?  The answer is easily satisfied when

the reader finishes the novel.  Offred must realize the injustices if she

feels compelled to reveal her story on the tapes.  She must grasp the

importance of conveying the atrocities that were executed during the

Gileadian area.


      Offred is representative of an average women also because she has

experienced no great traumas.  She isn't just ambivalent because of her

tendencies but because she has been abruptly interjected into a new society.

 She is stunned and almost numb.  She barely shows signs of life.  She

doesn't think there is any use to have a sense of hope.  She thinks of the

woman in "her" room before her.  Her strong sense of life did nothing to

help her earn her freedom.  She received nothing from her quiet rebellions.


      Offred is also obviously the perfect narrator because she is a

handmaiden.  In this new system, almost a caste system, the role of being a

handmaiden is not only of great importance, but is also considerably better

than other positions, such as an "unwoman", who...

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