Several of my students recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as part of a literature circle involving Feed and Fahrenheit 451. As Handmaid’s Tale was the only one I had not read, I grabbed a copy. While a full discussion of it is way beyond the scope of this blog (wait, this blog has a scope?), I did love the “Historical Notes” at the end, delivered some 150 years after the events described in the book:
Did our narrator reach the outside world safely and build a new life for herself? Or was she discovered in her attic hiding place, arrested, sent to the Colonies or to Jezebel’s, or even executed? Our document, though in its own way eloquent, is on these subjects mute. We may call Eurydice forth from the world of the dead, but we cannot make her answer; and when we turn to look at her we glimpse her only for a moment, before she slips from our grasp, and flees. As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day.