During this passage I will be talking about the Historical Notes through a Post Modernist Lens. After reading this passage there are three main aspects that catch my attention.
The historical notes occur an undisclosed amount of time after Offred’s last narrative passage. Although the date is clearly stated as “June 25th 2195” (pg 281) there is no clear description of time since Offred’s last days.
As a post modernist, this fact jumps out to me. How long after Offred’s narration did this passage begin? If it has indeed been a long time, has chaos been completely ordered? What is the current state of Gilead? In this passage, Gilead is referred to in the past tense “the Gilead regime was” (pg 286) and the purpose of this dialogue is clearly to discuss “Gileadean Studies” (pg 281) yet there are no clear indications of Gilead’s downfall. If this is the case however and Gilead has become a part of history, there are no hints that the former United States has been re-established. Professor Pieixoto seems to want to display Gilead through The Handmaid’s Tale but does not reveal his true reasoning behind sharing the transcript. Could he be using it as propaganda, to try to get people to act on a subject, or was he purely trying to share Offred’s story with education as an end goal? Pieixoto’s intentions bring me to my next point.
The Change in Narrative Point of View
The historical notes are a transcript of a presentation from a well known professor, one who “scarcely needs introduction” (pg 282), Professor Pieixoto. This professor is a previously unmentioned character in the book, who has come to talk about his transcript made public which he calls The Handmaid’s Tale. As a post modernist, the sudden shift in narrative point of view catches my attention. The point of view shift is a previously unused literary technique that was exposed with the development of post modernism. This brings me to my next point
After finding out that Offred’s story is not straight from her diary but was rather discovered by professor pieixoto and his team and turned into The Handmaid’s Tale, this makes all post modernists skeptical. Was Offred a trustworthy narrator? If she was, are these her exact words or were they manipulated? Is Pieixoto a trustworthy narrator? Although clearly an expert on the subject, having written “extensive publications” (pg 282) on the matter, there are no indications that Pieixoto has an emotional attachment to Gilead and would have any reason to tell the true story. The dinner celebration with its tradition, audience and laughter is an example of how Pieixoto and his team enjoy theatricality. Is it an impossible fact for them to have modified the transcripts for dramatic effect? What do you think?