Handmaid`s tale Narrative style

The novel is written in a first-person narrative style.
We know it is a first person narrative because of the use of words such as “I” and “we.”
The first line of the novel sets the story up to be a first-person narrative as it begins “We
slept in what had once been the gymnasium.” The use of past tense also allows the
reader to feel as though they are inside someone else’s mind and their memories.
First person narratives allow for the reader to question what they are being told as it is
only told from a single person’s perspective and that person may not always know what is
going on. In “The Handmaid’s Tale” at the end of the book when Offred is getting into the
black van she says “whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing.”
allowing for the end of the book to be made up by the reader and the possibilities to be
The purpose of making the novel a first-person narrative is to drip feed the reader
information. It allows the audience to understand how the world around them feels. This is
particularly important for “The Handmaid’s Tale” as it is dystopian literature and takes the
audience out of the world they know and into one which is filled with new rules and social
values. Lines such as “even the names of shops were too much of a temptation for us.
Now places are known by their signs alone” allow the reader to understand the strictness
and the rules of this new world.
By using Offred's mind to enter the world the reader understands the world from a
personal perspective. Offred doesn’t know everything about her world either so as the
novel progresses the reader learns the truth about her life as she does.
The effect of this novel being told from Offred’s perspective is that the reader identifies
with her as she is the sole point of information. By adding in flashbacks of Offred old life
the effect is that the reader understands Offred more and brings a reality to her character
as she lived, before what would now be considered as a normal life. “I remember the rules
that were never spelt out but that every woman knew: don’t open the door to strangers,
even if he says he’s police.” Lines like these remind the reader that this world could be
real and that the life of Offred is entirely possible. The reader has a forced connection as
they are inside Offred’s mind as she lives her life.
The other effect is one of suspense as the audience do not have all the information about
the novel handed to them, they need to wait and follow the story to understand all of
Offred’s world.
Margret Attwood has written in this style in an effective way. By writing in a first -person
narrative she has left a lot of the story to be imagined by the reader. By leaving room in
Offred’s character Attwood leaves room for the reader to imbue her with some of their own
However I found the end of the book where the reader is to make up their own decision to
be rather lazy as a writer as it felt like an unfinished novel. The final line leaves the reader
wanting more by saying “so I step up into the darkness within; or else the light.” I almost
feel as though there should have been a sequel to the novel which allowed the reader to
follow the rest of her life.
If the novel wasn’t written from a first-person perspective I feel as thought he story could
have been boring, however from Offred’s perspective the world is given depth as the
reader sees her life before and identify with her.

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