How Do the Historical Notes Influence Our Interpretation of "A Handmaid's Tale"?.
The epilogue of "A Handmaid's Tale," is a transcript of a lecture about Gilead. Atwood has added this to the end of the novel to give some insight to what happened after Gileadian society. Another purpose of the historical notes is to give another point of view other than the character Offred's. The first paragraph denotes the time and place the lecture occurs formally showing that the readers of the Historical Notes could be anyone looking at the transcript, not only Atwood's readers. This gives the Historical notes a "timeless" feel and so, relevant to anybody at anytime. .
The names of the professors are similar to Native American names from before Gilead, although the Christian names are similar to western culture names. Such as "Maryann Crescent Moon" and "James Darcy Pieixoto." This shows that the people after Gilead have now, respect for the nature unlike the time before. This marks Gilead as a transition when people are trying to repair damage done. This is highlighted when Crescent Moon reads a list of activities, which are all respectful to nature. It is interesting how the character Crescent Moon showing that women have got some respect back after the Gileadian society. .
The main speaker, Professor Pieixoto, gives some idea of his attitudes toward Gilead and Offred. This influences our interpretation of "A Handmaid's Tale". Firstly at several points in the Historical notes, Pieixoto makes jokes implying that he does not take the character Offred's "plight" seriously. This comes strange to the reader because they have become highly emotionally involved with Offred. He calls the "Underground Femaleroad" the "Underground Frailroad". This is a reference to the "Underground Railroad" which was the name given to the system to free black slaves during the American civil war. Historians, immediately after the war, looked down on the system because there was still racist prejudism left.