The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale is both hopeful and ambiguous. On the one hand, Offred appears to be successfully escaping Gilead with the help of the Underground Femaleroad. On the other hand, it is unclear what will happen to her once she reaches Canada, or whether she will ever be able to see her daughter again. The final scene in the novel leaves readers with many questions, but also a sense of hope for Offred and the other women who have suffered under Gilead’s regime.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is built on a shaky foundation. It’s the result of a man who didn’t care about the main character only her commander piecing it together years later. As a result, it makes sense that this shaky account—which includes an unreliable narrator and instances of insufficient evidence to support its conclusions—would end with a jagged conclusion: Offred being taken into the dark unknown to safety or assured death.
The questions about what happened to Offred, to the other handmaid, and to Gilead itself are largely left unanswered. The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale is open-ended on purpose in order to reflect the uncertainty of the future for all women living under oppressive regimes.
Some readers feel cheated by the lack of closure at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. We are not given any clear answers as to what happened to Offred after she was taken away in a van by the Eyes. Did she escape to Canada? Was she killed? The possibilities are endless and Margaret Atwood leaves it up to the reader to decide. This can be frustrating, but it is also reflective of reality. For women living under oppressive regimes, the future is always uncertain. There is no telling what will happen from one day to the next and The Handmaid’s Tale ends on that note.
While The Handmaid’s Tale may not have provided us with a tidy ending, it is still a powerful story that highlights the plight of women living under oppressive regimes. The open-ended nature of the ending leaves room for hope, which is something that we all need in dark times.
In both cases, her ending is equally frightening, the type of uncertainty that makes chills run down one’s spine because even if she is saved, her life has been folded over so many times and reinvented then destroyed, making it difficult for her to attain the woman she once was.
The fact that she may never see her daughter again is also horrifying. The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale is not a happy one, but it is a powerful one. It leaves the reader with much to think about long after the book has been put down.
She would be missed and remembered. She wouldn’t have realized it at the time, but that battle was just another motive in her life: to protect her family-name, legacy, and reputation. Her story is one of unfulfilled potential, where she achieves perfection yet fails to achieve happiness.
The final lines of The Handmaid’s Tale hint at the possibility for change, for hope that has been absent throughout most of the novel. The handmaids have been through too much to simply give up and die; they are fighters. The final line “or else the light” shows that there is still good in the world, despite all of the trials and tribulations faced by the handmaids. There is still a chance for happiness and freedom, even if it seems impossible. The ending leaves readers with a sense of hope, which is perhaps the most important message of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The simple statement “have any queries?” (311) is a method of bringing an end to a discussion, in which one individual is monologuing at his audience while defending one-sided ideas, making the audience feel validated. This mastery of language is a humiliating way for him to demonstrate his authority over his audience.
For who would speak up and ask questions after this so-called expert has explained everything known about Offred’s story? Who would know to ask him why he does not focus on the role of women in Gilead, when all he focuses on is The Commander? Piexoto, like Luke and The Commander, controls the language of the society.
The fact that he can do this so easily and that the questions he asks are designed to control the narrative, makes it clear that The Handmaid’s Tale is not just a story about women’s rights, but also about who has power over the language.
This final scene, in which The Commander hands over a tape recorder to Offred and tells her to record her story, is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is The Commander breaking the law by allowing Offred to have possessions. Secondly, The Commander is telling Offred that her story is important and worth recording. And thirdly, The Commander says that he will keep the recorder safe for her, which hints at the possibility of rebellion or escape.
The fact that The Commander hands over the recorder with the intention of Offred keeping it safe, shows that he does not fully trust the new government. He is willing to risk his own safety in order to help Offred. This moment of humanity from The Commander is a ray of hope at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. It gives the reader hope that there are people who are willing to fight against the oppressive regime, even if they have to do so in secret.
The final words of The Handmaid’s Tale are “I wish…” (313). These words are left unfinished, which could symbolize hope or uncertainty. The fact that Offred does not know what she wishes for, shows how uncertain her future is. She does not know what will happen to her, but she is hopeful that things will get better. The fact that the novel ends on a note of hope, suggests that Atwood believes that there is still hope for the future, even in the darkest of times.
In the phrase “All three men merge,” (Miner 154) the notion that they control language to dominate others is demonstrated. For The Commander and Luke, it was word games and Latin, while Piexoto uses selective presentation of information at hand as a means of winning an argument. The entire body of work from Handmaid’s Tale is but a trickle of knowledge supplied to you, with important details deliberately concealed to convey a specific, unsatisfactory conclusion
The handmaid’s tale is a “liminal text” (Miner 155) that lies in-between genres, and this ending only strengthens that claim. The ending is not simply indicative of a dystopian future, or even satire, but it blurs the lines between the two to create something new and unique.
The reader is left with more questions than answers, which is typical of dystopian literature, but The Handmaid’s Tale goes a step further. The open-ended nature of the ending makes it all the more unsettling, as we are left to wonder what happened to Offred after she was taken away. Did she find freedom or was she merely traded in for another handmaid? We may never know, but that is precisely the point. The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale highlights the powerlessness of women in a male-dominated society, and leaves us with a sense of hope that they will someday break free from their oppression.