‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Who Is June Narrating Her Story To?

Throughout The Handmaid’s Tale, June Osborne has met a number of people who both help and prohibit her journey to freedom. But through every harrowing moment and close call, she continuously describes her innermost thoughts to some unknown person. So, who is June talking to?

June Osborne standing outside in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4
June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 | Hulu

Telling her story gets June through

The Handmaid’s Tale book by Margaret Atwood was the catalyst for the Hulu series. In the books, readers don’t ever find out June’s name, but she narrates the story just the same as she does in the show. Now, in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, June has finally escaped Gilead and made it to Chicago, which is one of the few American cities still ruled by the American government.

In a 2017 article for the New York Times, Atwood wrote that June’s narration is part of what helped her flee from Gilead.

“There’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness,” Atwood wrote. “Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: Every recorded story implies a future reader.

“Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal,” Atwood continued. “So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Dallaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex.”

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Who is June talking to?

Of course, as the viewer, Offred or June, is talking to us and explaining what is happening, but within the story, there is also an intended audience.

“There are two reading audiences for Offred’s account: the one at the end of the book, at an academic conference in the future, who are free to read but who are not always as empathetic as one might wish; and the individual reader of the book at any given time,” Atwood wrote. “That is the “real” reader, the Dear Reader for whom every writer writes. And many Dear Readers will become writers in their turn. That is how we writers all started: by reading. We heard the voice of a book speaking to us.”

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Was ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ meant to be a warning?

With the 2016 election and some current events, people have wondered if The Handmaid’s Tale book was written as a warning. The 1985 book was written more as an anti-prediction than anything else. According to Atwood, she wrote the novel as a roadmap of what to look out for and what to guard against.

“No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities,” she wrote. “Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.”

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