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I think the flashbacks we get to life before Gilead through Offred's mind serve to form an incredibly important function. Juxtaposing happier memories of her life with her husband and their child living a "normal" life and then on the run, and then with Offred as a Handmaiden highlights how much the world has changed and also serves to heighten the contrast between the freedom women and people had compared to the sexual enslavement Offred is suffering now. Flashbacks therefore are one of the elements that heighten the harsh realities of the society of Gilead - where humanity has stooped so low that any women who are still fertile are rounded up like animals and given out to the most important men in society to impregnate.
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