The Handmaid's Tale Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Study Guide

Original title:
The Handmaid's Tale
Published March 16th 1998 by Anchor Books (first published 1985)
Cambridge, Massachusetts,2005(United States)
Republic of Gilead,2005
ISBN 038549081X (ISBN13: 9780385490818)

Margaret Atwood, born in Canada, wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 1985. The book touches upon increasing influence of religious conservatism in the society at that time. After the world has openly admitted to sexual revolution, there were parties and people who openly criticized it and made sex, contraception, women voting and other rights look indecent and unnecessary.

Even though the novel is written in dystopian genre, it is also often considered a manifesto of women’s role in the society. It shows how important are the gains of feminism movement and how fragile gender balance can be.

Have you ever wondered how and why society reproduces? Do you think you have an answer to that question? Then let “The Handmaid’s Tale” offer you another perspective on the issues of having children, being free and independent, performing your social function and finding a place for your skills in the world.

The story is a circle of a couple of stories through one perspective. Each of the sub-stories ends with a failed attempt to escape the world that restricts the narrator’s wellbeing more and more with each attempt. She used to have a mother, husband and a daughter, but now she is proclaimed a bad mother, she doesn’t know where her husband went and she is obliged to sleep with her Commander to produce a child.

Here she is at a Women’s Center, the next chapter is devoted to a government collapse, and then there’s a success story of a woman who escaped. Or almost escaped as we will find out later. Her circle of family and friends is getting smaller, so does her scope of human rights. There’s no name, no voice and no future for her.

Even though the reader will never find out the name of the book’s narrator, the story is a fascinating read in one go. It might seem too rough at the beginning, but it shows what a society free of emotions and gender balance can do.

New Essays

The Handmaids Tale - Symbolism

The Handmaids Tale “The use of symbolism can transform the most straightforward theme. “ To what extent do you agree with this statement? The theme of conformity and resistance reigns throughout the book “The Handmaids Tale” as it follows the life of Offred in a new and restrictive society named...

Handmaids Tale- Basic Response

One of the ways in which The Handmaid’s Tale creates opportunities to respond is through its discussion and exploration of a dystopian society. A dystopian society is often characterised as a futuristic setting with oppressive societal control and elements of totalitarianism. The Handmaid’s Tale...

Handmaids Tale

Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, portrays men and women in a society with very rigid gender roles which give its citizens no chance of social mobility. Within this society there is no individual choice, because the women’s rankings and duties are decided upon according to where they reside...

Handmaids Tale Notes

Question 1: Written language is not neutral. Explore this idea making reference to your experience of written language. Written language can only be neutral if it has a non biased with preconceived values/beliefs, and the author or the narrator must not favour any side of the conflicts at hand...

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