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The Handmaids Tale is a novel that consists of more than one genre it falls in the categories of being a dystopian science fiction, an autobiography, a love story and even a feminist novel. There are many narrative techniques used here in the Handmaids Tale that make it very complex and original such as the use of flashbacks and the very fragmented narrative structure, all of which I will be discussing in this essay.
The significance of the epigraphs at the beginning of the novel I feel set the readers up for the story about to be told, as the first epigraph (Genesis,30:1-3) talks about the use of the Handmaids by trying to justify the use of them by quoting from the bible.
The second epigraph (A Modest Proposal) shows the cold-heartedness of people, the controlled sincere tone of this mad scheme he talks about parallels with the earnest fascination of Gilead, giving us a rough clue of the tough regime of the Gileadean society. The third epigraph (Sufi proverb) claims that no one needs to forbid anything that is undeniable even when in a desperate situation, the undesirable could be the solution.
The deliberate confusion of the opening chapter where Atwood had chosen to hold back large amounts of information causing the reader to become curious and wanting to read more into the story, the narrator of the story who we are unaware of at this stage is not bothering to introduce to the readers what is happening around her, it seems that the narrator is not just telling the story but merely reminding herself of that specific moment in the past “We folded our clothes neatly and laid them on the stool at the ends of the beds” this gives us a clue that the narrator has gone through this experience already and is speaking from elsewhere in the future. We can see also that the narrator is fully aware of the changes that have occurred since the time before maybe explaining why she only remembers and doesn’t feel the need to explain at first, again a technique used to make the readers wanting more so they can understand what has gone on to cause such a rapid change in their lives.
Judging by the atmosphere of the surroundings the readers can see a desperate yearn of the past and the act of physical contact where the girls lean out of their cots just to touch each others hands giving us a sense of oppression and a society with rules and order. There are many characters and themes introduced in this very first confusing chapter but it will have left the readers with a lot of guesswork leaving them gripped on wanting to read more this is why I feel that Atwood has started with a confusing opening chapter. The ordering of the sections just reflect the day to day routine of a handmaid such as shopping, check ups at the doctors etc.
it also represents the narrow existence of a handmaid and the feeling of repetition, the ordering does go day, night, day, night and so on except for the napping section, but sleep also occurs here I don’t understand why this has a different title? I feel that the night sections contribute massively to the structure of the narrative because this is where we learn most about Offred and of the beginning of the regime of Gilead. This is where Offred can have her time alone and vividly go over her memories of the past “The night is mine, my own time, to do as I will. ” The night time is peaceful for Offred where she can be completely away from the oppression in Gilead. Here we learn of her past about her relationship with Luke, her family, her friends, her daughter and the rapidly changing society of Gilead.
It again shows the readers how oppressive Gilead must be as Offred does not feel safe to reminisce in the day time while she is out shopping everyday it shows that the fear of the society is constantly on her mind causing her to be aware of everything that is going on. Through these night sections we learn about Offred herself we see that she is a determined woman, we also see that she is a sensitive because sometimes she cannot go on with her stories as they are too painful, but we also see a rebellious side to Offred because by telling her story she is breaking all the laws of the Gilead regime by going over her past and communicating her thoughts and feelings whereas in the daytime she comes across as agreeing with the regime, but here we hear about each time she breaks the law by having a love affair with Nick or seeing the commander plus remembering her past.
The narrative technique of flashbacks is most obvious here, the flashbacks are used to tell us the reasons why things are the way they are, informing us throughout the novel of how the society of Gilead developed. Her flashbacks inform us of how she tried to escape over the border with her child and husband or how she suddenly lost her job at the library if these occurrences had been mentioned at the beginning of the story I feel that it would mean no significance to the reader as they wouldn’t have known more about Offred but placing these events in the flashbacks throughout the novel creates mystery for the reader who will want to read on more to find out the endings to these fragmented stories.
Also there is an importance to the position of the flashbacks for example when Offred recounts her first meeting with Serana Joy she then talks about her mother “A motherly figure,someone who would understand and protect me. ” Another example is when Offred first kisses Nick in the downstairs living room at night and when she goes back up to bed she then thinks of Luke “I believe Luke is lying face down in a thicket. ” Maybe associating her feelings for Nick with how she felt about Luke in the time before Gilead and even now Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.