Partial Transcripts: dialogues with history in Margaret Atwood’s 'The Handmaid’s Tale'

Peter Marks

Abstract


Beginning at the beginning, as the King advises in Alice in Wonderland, makes perfect sense, but only if you know where the beginning begins. For, as Edward Said suggests, there might well be other, secret points of beginning, points which in turn complicate the establishment of origin, of authenticity, and, by extension, claims to authorship and authority. Paradoxically, establishing the relevance of this to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian projection, The Handmaid’s Tale, involves fast-forwarding past the end of the tale. Past the end of the tale, though not to the end of the text itself. The King’s demand to go on till you reach the end also makes perfect sense, but only if you know where the ending ends. And The Handmaid’s Tale ends more than a dozen pages after the handmaid’s tale. Only beyond the end of Offred’s tale, then, does fuller understanding of its ‘beginning’ begin.

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