Theme Of Self Doubt In The Handmaid's Tale

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When one hears a story, they put their trust in the storyteller. They want to be undeceived; they want the story to be accurate as possible. As soon as a storyteller inserts any semblance of self-doubt, or doubt of their tale, into their tale, they tend to lose their credibility. In turn, the story tends to lose its meaning. In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the storyteller, Offred, explicitly expresses her self-doubt towards the beginning of the novel. However, this does not make her story void of meaning; rather, it emphasizes the severity of her situation in Gilead and her deteriorating mental health, and shows just how silenced she truly is. Offred’s fragmented, unreliable narrative may have readers questioning the story’s events, …show more content…
A truthful story, in and of itself, is neat and orderly. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, linked together by a clear chain of events. Offred’s own life, however, does not offer that luxury to her. She has lived two different lives: one pre-Gilead and one post-Gilead. She has assumed a new identity. Because of this, she must fragment her story between the old and the new; it is her story, after all. A truthful story also tends to have a knowledgeable narrator, one who knows more about their story than the ones to whom they are telling it. Offred, while she follows Gilead’s rules, is unable to rationally explain its significance and principles. To say that she could tell the truth about Gilead is implausible; she does not know that truth herself, hence why her narrative tends to stray away from sequential rationality, and why she feels the need to tell her listeners that it is …show more content…
She believes that if she can obtain her own voice, she can use the same power for her own benefit. However, notable is the difference between a personal narrative and a historical one. Offred is not giving a story of Gilead; readers get some historical context for Gilead’s existence but are often left unsatisfied. Rather, Offred is telling a story of herself. She believes that in telling as much as she can, even in fragments, it will keep her memory alive and allow it to be heard by someone else. She addresses the reader as a friend; “A story is like a reader. Dear you, I’ll say. Just you, without a name…I will say you, you, like an old love song. You can mean more than one” (Atwood 40). These words, flowing like a stream of consciousness, seem spur-of-the-moment and emotional. So often, stories and narratives, especially historical ones, are methodically planned out in order to be told in the best manner. Offred’s story has no time to be thought out; she has no time to plan sequence, but also has no time to plan lies. The fact that her narrative is personal and that she addresses her listeners is a strength hidden behind weakness, something which only makes us believe her

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