Essay on Interpreting The Handmaid's Tale

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Interpreting The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale is distinguished by its various narrative and structural divisions. It contains four different levels of narrative time: the pre-Revolution past, the time of the Revolution itself, the Gileadean period, and the post-Gileadean period (LeBihan 100). In addition, the novel is divided into two frames, both with a first person narrative. Offred's narrative makes up the first frame, while the second frame is provided by the Historical Notes, a transcript of a lecture given by a Cambridge professor. The distinctions in structure and narrative perspective parallel the separation of Gileadean residents into different social roles.

Offred's narrative is mainly of the Gileadean period, but she frequently interrupts her account of this time with memories of the pre-Revolution and Revolution periods. In her account of the pre-Revolution period, the reader learns of Offred's childhood with her mother, her student days with her friend Moira, and her relationship with her daughter and husband. From her memories of the Revolution, the reade...

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