The Handmaid’s Tale is told by a first-person narrator, Offred. The details of her current life are told in the present tense, while flashbacks to her earlier life are told in the past tense. Both the first-person narrator and the use of the present tense help to create a sense of confinement. We can only see what Offred chooses to show us. As a result, our vision is limited by her unwillingness to speak (for instance, about the pain of losing her daughter), just as Offred’s vision is limited by the “white wings” (Chapter 2) she wears around her face. The use of the present tense also mimics Offred’s experience of confinement. Just as, officially, she has no past, and no knowledge of what her future holds, we too are stuck in the present moment of her story, waiting for her to explain how she came to be in her situation and wondering how she might get out.

Read more about the use of first-person point of view in the context of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.