The Handmaid’s Tale An introduction… English IB M. Boudreau.

The Handmaid’s Tale An introduction… English IB M. Boudreau

Transcript of The Handmaid’s Tale An introduction… English IB M. Boudreau.

The Handmaid’s TaleAn introduction…

English IBM. Boudreau

A. Margaret Atwood Quotations

“War is what happens when language fails.”

“Ignoring isn’t the same as

ignorance, you have to work at


“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.”

“We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.”

“Men are afraid that women

will laugh at them. Women

are afraid that men will kill


“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”

“Canadians are fond of a

good disaster, especially

if it has ice, water, or

snow in it. You thought

the national flag was

about a leaf, didn't you?

Look harder. It's where

someone got axed in the


B. Margaret Atwood

• Canadian author• Born in Ottawa on November 18,

1939• Atwood is among the most-honored

authors of fiction in recent history. Recipient of– Booker Prize– Arthur C. Clarke Award– Governor General's Award

• She is the author of twenty-nine volumes of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

• Themes include feminism, government, social critique, repression, oppression, colonization, violence, national identity and religion.

C. A note about dystopias…

• Dystopian literature presents fictional worlds or societies that are depicted as utopias, but under closer scrutiny illustrate terrifying and restrictive regimes in which individual freedoms are often suppressed for the greater “good”.

• Atwood’s dystopia , Gilead, depicts a society in

which religious extremists have taken over and reversed the progress of the sexual revolution.

D. Gileadian Society

• The fictional Republic of Gilead represents an “atavistic Puritanism”.

• Atavism refers to the reversion to the appearance, behavior of our ancestors.

• Feminists argued for liberation from traditional gender

roles, but Gilead is a society founded on a “return to traditional values” and gender roles, and on the subjugation of women by men.

• What feminists considered the great triumphs of the 1970s—namely, widespread access to contraception, the legalization of abortion, and the increasing political influence of female voters—have all been undone.

• Women in Gilead are not only forbidden to vote, they are forbidden to read or write. Atwood’s novel also paints a picture of a world undone by pollution and infertility, reflecting 1980s fears about declining birthrates, the dangers of nuclear power, and -environmental degradation.

E. Inspiration

The Handmaid’s Tale can be interpreted as a response to / exploration of:

• The rise of social conservatism in 1980’s• The Cold War (Atwood’s time in Berlin)• The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran• The rise of evangelical Christianity in the USA • Modern Puritanism• Social stratification

F. Renewed interest

While some of the themes of the novel can seem a little dated, a number of recent events and geopolitical shifts have renewed interest in The Handmaid’s Tale:

-The influence of right-wing ideology in the USA

(Tea-Party, Evangelical Christianity)

-The Arab Spring

-Suspension of rights in response to 9/11(Patriot Act, Rendition, American