In this piece of metafiction, Margaret Atwood makes the point that "what" happens in a life or a story, the plot, is of little importance because all plots, whether in life or in fiction that possesses an "authentic ending," end the same way: in death. She presents a number of very different plots: some include suicide, others espionage, some cancer, and others have "no problems" at all. The point is that the details of each plot really just consist of "a what and a what and a what" and that "The only authentic ending is the one provided here: John and Mary die ." No matter the plot, no matter how distinct it is, it must and will end the same way. Atwood further downplays the importance of plot when she says, "That's about all that can be said for plots."
I was perhaps too optimistic to end the Handmaid's story with an outright failure. Even Nineteen Eighty-Four , that darkest of literary visions, does not end with a boot stamping on a human face for ever, or with a broken Winston Smith feeling a drunken love for Big Brother, but with an essay about the regime written in the past tense and in standard English. Similarly, I allowed my Handmaid a possible escape, via Maine and Canada; and I also permitted an epilogue, from the perspective of which both the Handmaid and the world she lived in have receded into history. When asked whether The Handmaid's Tale is about to "come true", I remind myself that there are two futures in the book, and that if the first one comes true, the second one may do so also.