Summary: Part XXVII: Sendoff
Aunt Lydia speculates once again on who her future reader might be. She pictures a young woman scholar, bright and ambitious, who will labor tirelessly over her manuscript and eventually produce a “warts-and-all portrait” of her life.
She expresses regret that she won’t live to see Gilead’s downfall and explains her plan to use the vial of morphine to kill herself if and when the authorities come after her.
Aunt Lydia concludes her account by echoing a quotation from Mary, Queen of Scots: “In my end is my beginning.” She imagines this motto embroidered on a wall hanging.
Summary: The Thirteenth Symposium
The novel’s final section features the partial transcript of the proceedings of the Thirteenth Symposium of Gileadean Studies, which took place in June 2197 in Passamaquoddy, Maine.
Professor Maryanne Crescent Moon opens the proceedings by noting that Passamaquoddy, formerly known as Bangor, was once an important hub for refugees fleeing Gilead as well as a key stop on the Underground Railroad in the United States’s antebellum period. She then introduces the keynote speaker, Professor James Darcy Pieixoto.
Professor Pieixoto congratulates Professor Crescent Moon on her recent promotion to President of the association and apologizes for jokes of questionable taste he made at the previous symposium two years prior. Professor Pieixoto reminds the audience of the lecture he gave at the last symposium. A collection of tapes attributed to the Handmaid “Offred” had recently been discovered in a footlocker in Passamaquoddy, and he had presented his tentative conclusions about the tapes. Although some historians doubted the authenticity of the material and its dating, the professor declares that several independent studies have since confirmed his initial assumptions.