Category Archives: Parts XI-XV and Historical Notes

The Handmaid’s Tale: Parts XI-XV & Historical Notes

Finally finished the book, and I have to say, I am really disappointed on how the book ended. There isn’t and closure for the character Offred, does she get terminated or is she put in a different family? Her story is not over and if the author is planning on writing a second book, then I can understand but if this is it then I can’t except this ending. Of course this also leaves the reading with an imagination of what the ending could be, what might have happened to Offred, to NIck, to the commander and his wife. The ending of part fifteen gives us the scene where Offred is lead into the truck that will take Offred away for good, leaving the reader with this quote, “And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.”(295). This quote on its own tells the reader that the character is now heading down into a deep dark place and to expect to suffer afterwards but the last portion seems to explain that not everything is as bad as it seems. That through it all she will find a better place, be it be in the after life or in a new home, in another family or outside this society.

While reading the Historical Notes, I have to say I am surprised to find out that these society actually existed in the US, more specifically in Maine. We get important information about the lifestyle of Americans from the guest speaker and begin to understand how the society really operated and how the handmaid’s became surrogate mothers for married couples, and even before the society took over, the country was already forcing limitations on the female will and also gave them rules to live by and aid couples just like in the old testament.

After reading the last few pages of the Historical notes, my theories were confirmed. Even the people who wrote this book have not a single clue on what happened with the Offred, “As for the ultimate fate of our narrator, it remains obscure. Was she smuggled over the border of Gilead, into what was then Canada, and did she make her way thence to England?” (310). This confirms what everyone has been thinking. Its because of the tapes of the narrator of this book that tells us the story inside the Gilead society. Giving every female their own unique name for each family the join so that the females have no identity and are just used for the need of reproduction.

I enjoyed reading the book, it was getting really interesting and I was looking forward to what might happen next. I especially happy that Offred found some form of love with Nick and that the wife was allowing them to have sex so that she may have a child. It is a bit sad when Offred starts to remember her husband and wonders if he can accept what she is doing. Yet, Offred rejoices in her choice of being with Nick before being taken away and never seeing him again. Seems poetic.

Live Life to it’s Fullest With no Regrets

If i have learned anything after reading the handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood is to live life to it’s fullest with no regrets. Offred is a character that has suffered through much ever since becoming a handmaid like losing Luke, being depraved of most things that women loved, and there is of course the ceremonies where she has to have sexual intercourse with a commander who is well passed his prime and having his wife in the room to make things even worse. Her whole life went from being free being anything she wanted to be to living with hopes that she gets pregnant so that they see usefulness in her. This is a world where breaking rules can equal death, finding other demeaning ways of being used like how they did with Moira or being sent out to the Colonies where people live like gutter rats for the most parts, this may equal death as well. Although Offred had to live as a handmaid where constant rules are being forced upon her she finds ways to break rules and is always taking much delight while breaking these rules. “You expect me to put that on? I say. I know my voice sounds prudish, disapproving. Still there is something attractive in the idea” (Atwood, 230). What Offred is referring to is an outfit that is revealing with feathers i guess you all have an idea, point is this is the type of things that are supposed to be banned but are sold in the black market probably and the Commander has one for her to put on. This is illegal yet as she says there is something attractive in the idea. This goes with her feelings about breaking rules in the past. Sometimes breaking rules can give a person a feeling of power and Offred is a character that loves feeling powerful.

Offred has broken so many rules while being a handmaid, but her latest crime was her ongoing affairs with Nick. The “no strings attached” type of relationship. The plan was to only use Nick to get pregnant because the Commander can’t seem to do it. “I would like to be without shame. I would like to be shameless. I would like to be ignorant. Then I would not know how ignorant I was.” (Atwood, 263). Offred feels shameful for the fact that she had to open her legs yet again to another man. This was illegal but it was planned by the Commanders wife so that Offred can get pregnant but all she could think about was how Serena thought how easy it is for Offred to open up and she even thought about Luke if she knew he was dead for sure would it make any difference. She wanted that ignorance and perhaps she got it because she kept going back to Nick without needing to. She yearned for it. Perhaps it was the breaking of the rules or maybe that she found somebody she can somewhat trust, who is not as old as the Commander that she can enjoy herself with. To that i say repent nothing and live on because you never know when your time might come. The story ended with her being ushered into a black van By Nick and MayDay. This meant that she got discovered and is going to die or that Nick is actually really there to help her. Either way Offred regretted a lot and I definitely do not want to become an Offred who only thinks about the mistakes from the past.

The Story of a Century

Now that we’ve officially finished the remarkable novel of Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is a piece I will hold close as a personal favorite. I feel that Atwood’s message is pertinent to the way a woman’s role is viewed in our society. For centuries, women have been censored and silenced; restricted of basic rights we’ve always deserved as they are human rights. The Gilead society mimics a time that actually once existed, aside from women being forced to reproduce for other people; it resembles a time where women had no rights to there own actions, body and mind.

A Handmaid is an exploited tool that is vital to the succession of Gilead. These women are reduced to their reproductive systems, hidden under red cloaks and stripped of their identities, as they are “soothing to the Eyes” in this way, (Atwood 212). Offred is a mere object in the eyes of Serena Joy, and this becomes most evident when she insists on Nick being the one to impregnate her, as the Commander is likely sterile. I find it funny how the word “sterile” seemed to be forbidden and not of use in this society, yet Serena promptly knew that this was the issue at hand. Serena Joy is basically demanding Offred to let herself be raped by Nick, in efforts to get her baby one way or another. She even metaphorically dangles a photo of Offred’s daughter in front of her as a bargaining or offering in exchange for letting a different man attempt to get her pregnant. Reading this scene painted an awful and vile picture of Serena, who seems to have absolutely no remorse for her actions. “Your time is running out”, Serena calmly threatens on 204, blackmailing Offred to do as she desires or be sent off to the Colonies. Offred giving in to this “deal” or agreement is also the result of her fixation on the fact that her daughter was alive and well, somewhere in this messed up aftermath.

Handmaids are truly of no value but at the same time have the highest value in Gilead, as they are held with priority when involving the child within them but frowned upon and treated like prisoners when they are not with child. Ofglen being replaced immediately following her suicide, (or so Offred was told), is yet another example of the value of a Handmaid: disposable, easily replaceable. “If your dog dies, get another”, (Atwood 187). Procreation is truly a business in this way, leaving Handmaids at the wrong end of the deal and at the bottom of this caste system Gilead has imposed on everyone. On 211, the Commander says the saddest thing regarding Offred’s placement in this system and the Gileadean rule over women with viable ovaries. “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs…better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.” In order to fulfill the Gileadean rule, some have to suffer while the others merely neglect. This gave me a flashback of the short story of Omelas: a society where all people benefitted from the neglect and suffering of one child, who represented a group of minorities and those neglected in todays society. The Gilead society is righteous and religious but aware that what they are doing to these Handmaids is disgusting and utterly unjust; it is rape and exploitation of women with fertile reproductive systems.

Storytelling becomes more apparent in these final parts, and Offred’s attempts at hoarding her sanity and remembering her experience as it was is for the purpose of retelling her story; keeping a physical record of all she endured. The tapes discussed in the Historical Notes are Offred’s words and soul; her reconstruction and recount of it all. These tapes were now artifacts of the Gileadean era serving as a basis for the Professor and other historians analyzing a now ancient society. Through Offred’s eyes, just like us readers, the historians of this post-Gilead era are given a detailed story and experience of one Handmaid among the thousands that once were. Atwood provides this sort of peek into the future to show the end of such a terrible era, as a new one takes place and observes what was once Gilead: a culture of rape using the Bible as its justification. And even after being given a first hand account of the horror that Handmaids endured, these historians and Professors show very little sympathy or feeling for Offred’s encounters, as she is simply one story among the many Handmaids that existed. Our vision of Offred is suspended in the air, as we are given proof of her escape from Gilead but her whereabouts following that are unknown.

The Risk for Relationships

As I mentioned in my previous post, Offred’s relationship with the Commander continued to evolve and grow into something no one in Gilead believed to be possible. For not even the Commander himself, who knew very well the rules of the Handmaid rituals, was unable to resist his need for companionship. Since Chapter X and onwards, his actions towards Offred shifted from a cold man only using Offred’s body as a tool/vessel to repopulate Gilead, to a desperate man using searching for Offred’s affection in order to fill his need for human contact.

By (211) Offred becomes completely aware of the Commander’s need for intimacy. She remembers how he wants her to “kiss him goodnight, as if I meant it.” (209) Although while The Commander is demanding for some form of a relationship between him and his Handmaid, at that point he is using Offred as a tool for his own personal gain much like how he uses her tool to for population. He has become clear that for The Commander, there might be something more important to him than simply repopulating and sexual desire. “… sex was too easy. Anyone could just buy it… Men were turning off on sex, even.” For him, Offred fills a much larger more vital roll than just baring children or obeying to his pleasure. In the end sex is just an action and all meaning of it will be lost to both the men and women.

Though despite this need for relationships and affection being strictly against the rules, this is something The Commander is willing to risk not only his life but Offred’s life.

What happens next?

Immediately upon finishing the last sections of The Handmaid’s Tale, I wanted to know what happens next. Offred leaves with the strangers led by Nick but there is no explanation where she is going. She doesn’t know either. From what she can tell she is going to be punished for going out with the Commander and Serena Joy finding the outfit she wore. I found it quite odd that both the Commander and Serena Joy were shocked when she was being led out by the strangers. Reading through you would expect them to call them as they did to Ofglen before she killed herself.

I was slightly confused to as what was happening to Janine. I wasn’t sure if she was pretending to have a mental illness to get out of the Red Center, or she actually “lost it” from losing several children to miscarriages. It seemed as if the Aunts and the Wives were looking “down on her” or at least that’s the vibe I got.

I think the Commander and Offred’s relationship also took a weird turn after she and Nick got involved. She definitely admitted to herself that she cannot replace Luke, but she also knows that she may not ever see him again. After she became involved with Nick I believe the Commander took almost a “backseat”, only with suggestions from Ofglen to gather information from him. I wasn’t surprised at all when Offred went out with the Commander against all rules because she wanted to break the monotony of living at the Red Center every day. This historical notes states that the center is probably named the “Rachel and Leah Re-education Center” (305).

The public Salvaging was shocking but I found the Particicution really crazy. It was probably set up this way so the Aunts could show the Handmaids what could happen to them if they broke the rules or did anything else that was forbidden. I couldn’t really figure out why Ofglen got in trouble, but I suppose it could have been when she mentioned the political involvement in the man who was salvaged by the handmaids. “He wasn’t a rapist at all, he was a political. He was one of ours. I knocked him out.” (260) Ofglen said to Offred about the man. Perhaps someone had overhead and reported it, which may indicate that said salvaging may have been politically motivated and not criminally motivated after all.

All in all I found it a pretty enjoyable story but I was disappointed in the end to not know what the ultimate outcome would have been for Offred. It could have been ultimately leading up to her death or Nick’s “friends” may have come to save her. I also think clearly we didn’t get the entire story, or accurately through Offred’s perspective as throughout she admits that some parts are fabricated or left some of the good events out.


Really..that’s how you End!

The Handmaid’s Tail by Margaret Atwood

Oh My God! why the cliff hanger? I assume that the author wants us to come up with our own conclusion as to what happened with the characters. I guess the author wants us to believe that “Frederick R. Waterford” [306]  and his wife “Thelma” [309] were the people that Offred was talking about. That “Luke, Nick, Janine, and Moira” are “pseudonyms” [306]. All of this I get, and understand that this is part of the information that the author has chosen to give us, but why not tell us what happened to the narrator. Why leave up to us to contemplate what had happened to her.

I was sad when new Ofglen told Offred “She hanged herself” [285]. When Offred had asked about the old Ofglen. it was horrible to find out what “Salvaging” meant. They make announcements about salvaging the day before it happens. Offred said “It was announced yesterday. They tell you only the day before.” [272]. Also Offred made it clear that “This is a district Salvaging, for women only. Salvagings are always segregated” [272].  There were loop ropes in “front of the first row of cushions.” [272]. After reading this I figured that some one was going to be hanged and on page [273] Offred said that “two Handmaids, one Wife”. Which let us know that if a Handmaid or a wife going to be hanged they invite all of the females in the district to watch. If it was a Commander or a lower ranking man then they would have called all of the men in the district.

However, on page [278] There was a man that two of the Guardians dragged up in the circle of the Handmaids. Offred said ” Between them they half carry, half drag a third man. He too is in a Guardian’s uniform, but he has no hat on and the uniform is dirty and torn.”  Aunt Lydia said that he “has been convicted of rape..He has disgraced his uniform…His partner in viciousness has already been shot” [278]. It was even worst to find out that the “woman was pregnant and the baby died” [279].

I figured that this was a message to all of the women there, but mostly the Handmaids. Aunt Lydia wanted the Handmaids to finish beating that man to death even though he was clearly beaten and drugged. Then come to find out Ofglen said to Offred “Don’t be stupid. He wasn’t a rapist at all, he was a political” [280]. I believe that Aunt Lydia use that poor man to lore out the others who was a political like him. I think that when Ofglen rush to stomp him to death Aunt lydia knew she was one of the political.

I really was enjoying how the story was going, but when the black van came for Offred and Nick jumped out of the van to get her and used the the secret code “Mayday” and said “Go with them” [293] and she was lead out of the house, I thought by the next page it will speak on where they have taken her. But, no, It just went way into the future. Then we find out that she was making voice recordings of what had happen to her.

But, We are stuck with her leaving the house and we are forced to guess what else had happened to her. I assumed that she was freed for a little while in order for her to be able to record her life in Gilead on tape, but that is only an assumption. I believe that the author left the ending open like that so if she wants to, she can go back and write a sequel to the story.


The Commander – The smiling and sad mask

Having finished the last chapters of Margret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and knowing the stance of the Commander on what he got from the republic and Gilead and what he wants in his relationship with Offred left a question mark in my head.

In chapter 32 Offred and the commander spoke a bit and the commander spoke about his reason for helping to create Gilead. This paragraph alone “I’m not talking about sex he, he says. That was part of it, the sex was too easy….. You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel” (210). This line alone left me asking, why? Why did you even bother helping in the creation of Gilead if that was one of your reasons? Throughout the entire novel, we are told that the sole purpose of the handmaid is to bear children. They are stripped of all will, belongings, family, everything and yet the commander says the line ” the sex was too easy” (210). “The inability to feel” (210), what he helped try to fight against is exactly what he got in the end. The relationship between a handmaid and the commander at first was exactly what he was fighting against the inability to in a relationship so he literally got what he wanted and yet he didn’t. The lines “Kissing is forbidden between us. This makes it bearable. One detaches oneself” (95) literally says that she has to remove herself entirely just to endure this process.

The commander’s ideal society and his actions are quite self contradicting, he wants to feel something in a relationship yet takes everything away from the handmaids. They aren’t allowed to read, they are limited in the things that they can do and the handmaids can’t even own anything. If you build a castle on sand it will have a unstable foundation and will eventually fall apart which is the best comparison I can come up with for Offred’s relationship with the commander. Well it is probably more of a one-sided feeling more than anything else to be honest or perhaps he is just ignorant of this as he was earlier in the novel when Offred asks the commander for some hand lotion in the line ” Why, he asked as if he really didn’t know. Maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t the first time he gave evidence of being truly ignorant of the real conditions under which we lived” (159). There isn’t anything in a relationship if the relationship has only one side going for it and the other remaining neutral out of fear. When the commander is further into his relationship with Offred he agrees to the line “You want my life to be bearable to me” (187) and yet before their meeting every other handmaid in Gilead is living a unbearable life compared to the life they once had.

The reasons he gave for creating Gilead left me more questions than answers. Why? Because what he fought to against is exactly what he got in the end. Sex was something that was too readily available? Yea commanders get it all the time now. They don’t feel anything out of it? Guess what they are procreating just for the sake of having kids and nothing else. Would anyone even be able to “feel” anything out of that? If I had actually met someone like this in a place like Gilead without getting killed I would have asked ” Why even bother with this? Sex to readily available? Guess what ignore it, that doesn’t involve you. Want to feel something? Find someone that gives a damn about you”. The reasons that the commander gave makes the creation of Gilead seem pointless.


I Had Enough!

I had enough of these novels ending when it’s just getting good! I was hoping to find out where Offred was being taken too, details in what she said and who she said it too, and what would be done to her. The author left us with an absolutely cliffhanger!

But I have a question, in the historical notes tapes were mentioned, is the novel based on true events? Like was someone recording themselves tell the story, since that’s basically what was happening the the novel Offred was telling us a story. 

back to the summary..

As I’m finishing the novel I start to think of how secretive the people of Gilead are. The whole system of things are in secret. Now, I always knew that no one is to really communicate but it didn’t hit me until after the salvaging and Offred is waiting for Ofglen and when she realizes that the handmaid that’s approaching her isn’t Ofglen and asks her if Ofglen has been transferred and the new handmaid responds with she is Ofglen. When I red it I was puzzled.Like what do you mean you are Ofglen. You’re clearly not, but then I read on to find out that they (whoever in charge of transporting and renaming handmaids) use the same names for replacing handmaids so you won’t be able to track them down (283). These people in charge don’t want any sort of real communication from these women, no friendships established, no connections made, no secrets being revealed, no plotting. Everything is so confidential, the law is literally stripping these women from their natural human rights. To have conversations they (by they I mean handmaids, marthas, etc) literally have to talk in code, like for example when Offred and the new Ofglen were walking and Offred mentioned may day , from the response the new Ofglen gave it was clear that she wasn’t “one of them” and was basically telling Offred to become submissive to the new rules of the new world they are living in.  I know when Offred was told that Ofglen committed suicide it hit her straight to her core, especially how she found out; by Ofglen whispering it to her and walking off. I don’t know if I missed something but what is this van the new Ofglen mentioned? If it’s the same van that came for Offred at the end? 

I really feel bad for Offred reading through the last parts of the novel. It’s clear that she’s still has flashbacks on her life with her husband and she misses him but she longs for love and I don’t think we will understand how she felt until we lose the same natural human desire, love and physical contact with the ones we love. So, because of this lack of desire she found it somewhere else, with Nick which is so risky it can cost her her chance of ever seeing her daughter and even worse, her life. But because she longs for that human affection she’s taking chances and it has to remain as ‘no strings attached’ but Offred would want what the have to be romantic but they don’t want to risk anything. (262) But if you turn back a couple of pages we see that the Commander takes Offred to a hotel to be romantic with each other but Offred isn’t feeling it at all. She doesn’t want any romance with him, she doesn’t even like him, she even closes his eyes when she kisses him. These two situations show that natural feelings can’t be forced and even if you’re longing for human contact if it’s not genuine it doesn’t matter. Offred states, “Fake it, I scream at myself inside my head. You must remember how. Let’s get this over with or you’ll be here all night.” (255)

Going back to my question about this novel being real experiences of someone, on the top of page 268 it’s like Offred is leaving these stories for someone specific to read, or hear. She states, “because after all I want you to hear it, as I will hear yours too if I ever get the chance, if i meet you of if you escape , in the future or in heaven or in prison or underground…I believe you’re there, I believe you into existence.”