The Importance of Memory in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.

2058 WordsDec 9, 20119 Pages
For this essay I aim to show the importance of memory and of remembering the past in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is a ‘speculative fiction’ first published in 1985 but set in the early 2000s. The novel was in response to changes in US politics with the emergence of Christian fundamentalism, the New Right. Atwood believed that society was going wrong and wrote this savage satire, similar to Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’, depicting a dystopia which she uses as a mirror to hold up to society. I will be focusing on the main character and narrator, Offred, “a handmaid who mingles memories of her life before the revolution with her rebellious activities under the new regime” (book group corner), as she…show more content…
This hope that Offred carried with her would be her savior. It is important to note that Offred forgets certain things that seem so normal to the reader. Within the new society, certain words are no longer to be used or said. This goes especially for women. For example ‘sterile’ is an "outlawed" word (161).When hearing her doctor say it during a routine checkup she is taken aback as she has forgotten it being in use. Handmaids also have a certain way they must talk and address each other. “Hello” is a greeting from the past and when the Commander greets her with it she is instantly nervous. “It’s the old form of greeting. I haven’t heard it for a long time, for years. Under the circumstances it seems out of place, comical even, a flip backwards in time, a stunt. I think of nothing appropriate to say in return.” (172). For something as basic as “Hello” to seem “comical” shows the reader how different Gilead is to the past. Also she cannot respond to the greeting, as she has forgotten it. Handmaids are also not allowed to write. When she finds a Latin phrase “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” scratched into her wardrobe she obsesses over it, wondering what it means and what the handmaid who wrote it might be like. All these things that would have been normal in her past life now excite Offred, they stimulate her. Because she has not seen or heard certain things since the formation of Gilead, they seem strange and foreign, similar to the effect
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