The creation of Offred, the passive narrator of Margaret Atwoods TheHandmaids Tale, was intentional.
The personality of the narrator in thisnovel is almost as important as the task bestowed upon her. Atwood chooses anaverage women, appreciative of past times, who lacks imagination and fervor, tocontrast the typical feminist, represented in this novel by her mother and herbest friend, Moira. Atwood is writing for a specific audience, though throughcareful examination, it can be determined that the intended audience is actuallythe mass population. Although particular groups may find The Handmaids Talemore enjoyable than others, the purpose of the novel is to enlighten the generalpopulation, as opposed to being a source of entertainment. A specific group thatmay favor this novel is the women activists of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Thisgroup, in which Offreds mother would be a member, is sensitive to thecensorship that women once faced and would show interest to the possiblefuture that could result.
Offred is symbolic of every woman. She wasconventional 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 page93, Offred is witness to Janines confession of being raped.
She doesntcomment on how the blame is placed on Janine. Is this because Offred has begunto accept the words of Aunt Lydia, or more likely, is she silent to createemphasis on the horrific deed? The answer is easily satisfied when the readerfinishes the novel. Offred must realize the injustices if she feels compelled toreveal her story on the tapes. She must grasp the importance of conveying theatrocities that were executed during the Gileadian area. Offred isrepresentative of an average women also because she has experienced no greattraumas. She isnt just ambivalent because of her tendencies but because shehas been abruptly interjected into a new society. She is stunned and almostnumb.
She barely shows signs of life. She doesnt think there is any use tohave a sense of hope. She thinks of the woman in her room before her. Herstrong sense of life did nothing to help her earn her freedom.
She receivednothing from her quiet rebellions. Offred is also obviously the perfect narratorbecause she is a handmaiden. In this new system, almost a caste system, the roleof being a handmaiden is not only of great importance, but is also considerablybetter than other positions, such as an unwoman, who cleans toxic waste inthe Colonies. Because Offred is characterized as passive, and mostly compliant,she is not as much in danger as other characters. Moira, her friend from collegeand the previous life, is dynamic and full of life. She doesnt want to beheld back, and her resistence causes her both trouble and distress. Janine,another character, is a brown-noser who uses flattery and praise toachieve a virtually impossible level of hierarchy with the Aunts among herpeers.
She has to sacrifice self-worth, though, and her admittance of fault inbeing raped is disgusting. The tense that Atwood uses is relative to thenarrator also. The shifts from present to past are frequent.
When an authorcauses the narrator to use past tense, the reader can generally conclude thatthe narrator knows the end of the story. This builds a sense of suspense. Usingpresent tense allows images in the story to be more solid and realistic,compared to past life.
Not all shifts in tense are used for the same reason.When Offred is speaking of Luke, she cant decide if she is in love withhim, or if she was in love with him. Offred gradually reveals the story, whichwe are to eventually discover is on tape. Atwood elects to use leisurelydisclosure in order to make the conclusion of the story more believable. TheHistorical Notes chapter causes the reader to re-examine the book, bothmentally and manually. As the reader recalls the jumble of thoughts, thebouncing back and forth between the present and the past, and the narratorsdecisions to withhold certain details, they understand the possibility, thoughunlikeliness, that this could actually happen.
Contrasts are important aspectsin the narration of this novel. The obvious contrasts are between othercharacters, such as between Offred and Moira. There also are the images of pastlife that Offred creates. These contrast to the new institution of Gilead.Examples of the contrast are the womens rights rallies.
Offred would attendwith her mother and also Offreds smoking habit. Offreds memories arecharacterized with a sense of longing and contrast with Offreds calm tonethroughout the story. Atwood chose Offred also because of the slighttransformation of Offred. Her perception of self and her sexuality has changedconsiderably. Offred had once had an affair with Luke before their marriage.
This can be compared to the meetings that the Commander and Offred have, yetthere is obvious discrepancy. When Offred used to meet Luke, there was one solereason love. Offred meets with the Commander for the things that representfreedom to her; fashion magazines, silk stockings and lotion. The Commander issimply emphasizing his sense of power. Offred achieves Margaret Atwoodspurpose in The Handmaids Tale. She shows the possibility of a society, due toradical feminism and conservative positions, where women are repressed.
This isboth a combination of past times and past movements, with a blending ofsuppression and the dangers of a patriarchal society. The negativity of such asociety is clearly evident, and through the scholarly dictation in theHistorical Notes, the reader can comprehend the possibility of a society.Offred narrates in the expected manner with passiveness and deliberateindifference.English Essays