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Historical Notes: The Handmaid's Tale

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McKenna Bowling

on 24 March 2014

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Transcript of Historical Notes: The Handmaid's Tale

The Political Implications
The Fallout
The Characters of the End

Conclusions Drawn
The Tapes and Other Hints
The Characters of the End
The year in which the epilogue is set is 2195, roughly two centuries after the Gileadean theocracy took over. Naturally, this means that something went very, very wrong in the '80s and '90s; politics and environmental efforts essentially failed. Worthy of note, therefore, are the following movements and trends of the time which Atwood most likely included in order to make several smaller points in relation to her feminist theme.
The Reform Party: opposed to any form of abortion, opposed to same-sex
, opposed to the World Trade Organization, opposed to NAFTA, claims Populism.
Earth Liberation Front: an eco-terrorist organization. Went to any means to "protect the environment".
The GMO Debate
White supremacy
It is likely that Atwood left the ending open for the purpose of the reader; what good would it do, to understand an entire theocracy and escape system when the compassion necessary to connect to Offred would be obsolete?

Also, it is arguable that Atwood wanted to make one last impression; history is doomed to repeat itself if we remove ourselves from it. Jokes at the expense of a brutalized group lead to hate speech; hate leads to predjudice; and predjudice leads to legalized oppression due to a fear of the unknown and the darkest parts of us all. In the end, all of our stories could end up like Offred's; tucked away and eventually heard but misinterpreted.
Atwood combined the politics and the movements she saw developing in order to touch on several points:
In her version of dystopian society,
are considered the minority. She brings white supremacists down quite a few pegs.
The many chemicals and genetic alterations made to crops and flushed throughout irrigated systems destroy human bodies and ruin future generations. "Unbabies" become the norm. Children are unraveled in the womb.
Misogynist politic is carried out; it destroys the humanity in all. Without the liberation of women, none are free.
Maryann Crescent Moon
: just her name tells us all we need to know. Mary, the Virgin Mother. Mary Magdalene, the rumored prostitute. At once the revered and the despised, the blessed and the grudgingly forgiven. Ann, as told by Luke in the Bible: a daughter of a lost tribe, and a prophetess. Ann told the future, but was not despised for it as Jezebel had been. She was a widow, and instead of falling into despair, moved into a house full of other self-actualized women. She fasted and prayed, "crucified the flesh" for her God. (Just as Offred crucified herself at every Ceremony for the gods of men and babies. ) And Ann went out and became a missionary, telling of the salvation, just as Maryann in the epilogue works devotedly for the preservation of her lost mothers' stories in the Gileadean period for the Gileadean Research Association. Maryann, then, embracing all archetypes of woman, is in fact the embodiment of all the potential shunned away in Offred years before her. "Crescent Moon" is clearly a reclaiming of the wild woman that was once lost, the natural woman overtaken by "civilization" in the years of discovering the New World; a crescent moon is a time of new beginnings, and of making dreams into reality.
That the tapes Offred's story was recorded on were found in a Bangor safe house implies at least that she made it to relative safety. However, they also symbolize her story in its entirety:
Elvis: an idolized sex symbol.
Boy George: British and arguably bi-sexual.
Mantovani: bland, elevator-oriented music, distant and removed
Twisted Sister: the perversion of womanhood and feminist solidarity
Lithuania: a former free state oppressed by the Soviet Union.
That this event is being held at the University of Denay, Nunavit, is in fact a pun: "Deny none of it." Obviously, Pieixoto does not heed this. Also, Nunavit is a reference to Alaska, which was perhaps the only part of America to escape Gilead, due to its close proximity to Canada.
Pieixoto: a professor at Cambridge University, (arguably, the "Harvard" of the UK), this man is set up for failure. He fails to grasp the meaning of this handmaid's tale: his entire focus is thrust upon the historical analysis and thus he loses his true treasure trove: that of human emotion, an individual's precious life and story in the middle of a world gone mad. He is a
, observing and piecing together something that should, by all rights, belong to women. With a name that is a reference to Pope Pius IX, the same Pope who issued the Immaculate Conception, Pieixoto's part is clear: he is a native to England, the haven for those women who escaped, and cares nothing for individualized experience. He owes all he is to the regime that came before him, and as a man, the point is made clear: the atrocities committed by a foreign regime must be brushed off, and those against women even joked about in the attempt to break the ice and attain scholastic success. Women haveve regained their legal rights, but social sexism still dominates his life, perspective, and career. So what did he really achieve?
Seth Baker
Tyson Barnett
McKenna Bowling
Shane Fauzey

Historical Notes: The Handmaid's Tale
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