2 thoughts on “Week 4 Day 2 Discussion Question 1

  • March 7, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    As Dara also notes, the historical notes at the end of the novel essentially show how Offred’s story is analyzed by Professor Pieixoto. The notes at the end reveal that the entire story we have read up until then was a recording of an era that has now come to an end, the Gileadean era. I agree with Dara and her view that Offred’s voice is ultimately still erased by Prof. Pieixoto’s urging that we cannot really take Offred’s accounts as a way to hold the Gileadean era responsible for its wrongdoings. He is very hesitant to even give Offred’s story a proper name — he goes back and forth from choices such as “item”, “document”, and “tapes”, almost as though he’s reluctant to give Offred a voice in the first place, questioning her words. He asks “what of the nature of the account itself?” And adds on “Also, there is a certain reflective quality about the narrative that would to my mind rule out synchronicity. It has a whiff of emotion recollected, if not in tranquility, at least post facto”. Even now, Prof. Pieixoto finds it most convenient to simply call Offred’s voice too emotional. Atwood’s decision to make this professor in the historical notes section a man as opposed to a woman is a significant choice that also brings us back to the idea of women being unable to reclaim their own identities and stories in a patriarchy (= Dworkin’s more radical separatist view).

    The last lines of the book are interesting to analyze because Prof. Pieixoto ends by saying “Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day”. The final chapter of the book ends on the theme/symbol of light as well: “And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light”. Offred is referring to the uncertainties of her new life after she escapes with Mayday (rebel group). This is another very interesting decision on Atwood’s part because Offred is hoping to find a better life, hoping to find light rather than darkness. Prof. Pieixoto assures his audience that their light today is clear, clearer than the light of before (of the Gileadean era). Atwood seems to be asking, did Offred find that metaphorical light? Further, is Prof. Pieixoto’s society (although modern) full of light? Light, in my understanding, is referring to a completely new era where women are able to tell their own stories, use their own voices, unscathed by patriarchy’s questioning of them.

  • March 4, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    The historical notes at the end of the Handmaid’s tale reframe the entire novel. The question of whether Offred is a reliable narrator comes up many times while reading this novel, whether she is acknowledging her inability to remember certain things or adding her own feelings and opinions to certain events. Despite her untrustworthiness, her narration is important, as we are seeing a system that takes away women’s voices through the voice of a woman, part of the appeal of her narration is getting insights into how someone’s brain would work when subjected to such horrors.
    The historical notes, however, completely reframes this.
    The hope that Offred possibly got out, and may have been able to write her own story, is taken away as we are told her story was transcribed from audio tapes found in the ruins of an old city, meaning Offred may have never escaped. Her own voice is also taken away, as the tapes were transcribed by two men, who could have reframed and altered whichever sections they wanted.
    Despite how horrific the events in this story are, Professor Piexoto refers to the Gildead era of America as necessary, showing that even after such atrocities were committed, they still aren’t taking women’s stories seriously enough to acknowledge that the pain they went through was wholly unnecessary. The fact he was the key note speaker of such a sensitive text shows that men still hold power in this society, even after what happened.
    The final line “Are there any questions” feels like a punch in the gut, as if Atwood is looking at the reader and telling us that she knows we will be left wanting more answers and that we won’t be given any.

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