Post-Modernism- Marina Salama

Throughout this passage, the main character Offred recalls pre-Gilead that eventually lead to the society she has now encountered. From a post-modernist perspective, it is evident that there are some aspects within the passage that shows how rules have been broken and creates a sense of uncertainty for the reader.

In traditional literature, authors tend to write in a sequential manner going from start to finish. Post-modernist texts “break rules” within literature by employing flashbacks to create breaks in the text. The passage, Losing her Job, is a flashback from Offred’s former life. She gives us insight into two different days when changes really began to take place in the pre-Gilead society. The flashback gives the reader insight into the life of the narrator and clarifies some rather reserved aspects of the novel. The downside is that the flashbacks disrupt the sequence of events in the novel.
Throughout the passage there is a lack of quotation marks between the dialogues of the characters:
She sick? I said as I handed him my card.
who? he, said aggressively I thought.
the woman who’s usually here. I said.
How would I know, he said.
The structure of the text makes the reader question whether or not she really had this conversation or not. The flashback is a recollection of the past and so the conversations that happen are not exact words but guidelines to what was said. This calls into question the reliability of the narrator as she is recalling roughly what was exchanged.

Reference to her daughter
As Offred revisits her past she refrains from calling her daughter by her given name. Instead Offred refers to her “she” or “her”. “We’d all got up in the usual way had breakfast, granola, I remember, and Luke had driven her off to school, in the little outfit I’d bought her just a couple a weeks before, striped overalls and a blue T-shirt.” The cause of this occurrence may have to do with the fact that she has a hard time accepting that part of her past and the fact that her daughter was unjustly taken from her. However, at the same time it is quite ironic that she refers to her husband by his name but not with her daughter. Why wouldn’t she refer to her husband as “him”? You would think that the loss of her husband and daughter had an equal effect on her as she lost the two most important people in her life. Overall it affects the reader because we feel as though, again, the narrator is untrustworthy due to her dehumanization of her own daughter by referring to her as “she.”

Towards the end of the passage Offred remembers the loss of her job. Conventionally, when one loses a job, they would question why they were “let go.” In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred and the other women approach the loss of their jobs in an unconventional manner that goes against the norm. Instead they accept the loss without question as though they deserved it. Offred recalls,“Since none of us understood what had happened, there was nothing much we could say. We looked at one another’s faces and saw dismay, and a certain shame as if we’d been caught doing something we shouldn’t… What was it about this that made us feel we deserved it?” I also noticed that as the women were leaving, the director tells them to leave the machines. In a normal work setting it is made clear to the employees what their property is and what belongs to the company. The women would know not to take the machines as Offred states, “As if we could have taken them.”

Overall, this passage has a lot of post-modern elements that defy traditional literature, reveals a lot about the structure and questions what the reader knows about literary norms.

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