The Handmaid’s Tale: Narrative Voice and the Primacy of the Tale

  • Barbara Garlick


Paradoxically, narrative authority has largely remained unproblematic in speculative fiction. Despite the term, speculation within the different forms of fiction usually covered by that description — fantasy, fairy and folk tales, science fiction, the utopia, the gothic — is usually reserved for the imaginative recreation of worlds, locations and beings, rather than applied to the contingent status of the narrative voice and its relation to the tale. Yet in their beginnings, tales are predicated upon anonymity, with a subsequent accretion of different voices to a single ur-tale. What a reader of tales is confronted with is versions of, or discourses about, not that single ur-tale, which perhaps it is never possible to recover, but an infinitely various accreted form, in which authority is necessarily highly unstable. In addition other discourses such as the philosophical, the scientific, the anthropological, the linguistic may shadow the reading. We have indeed ‘a palimpsest of unheard sound’ (The Handmaid’s Tale, 13).


Fairy Tale Instrumental Rationality Railway Carriage Folk Tale Narrative Voice 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Garlick

There are no affiliations available

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