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Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: Novel and Film Essay

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Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: Novel and Film

The Handmaid's Tale, a science-fiction novel written by Margaret Atwood, focuses on women's rights and what could happen to them in the future. This novel was later made into a movie in 1990. As with most cases of books made into movies, there are some similarities and differences between the novel and the film. Overall the film tends to stay on the same track as the book with a few minor details changed, and only two major differences.

Atwood sets the story not too far into the future, and the women have lost almost all of their rights. The original government was overthrown and taken over by Christian religious fundamentalists that believed that society was corrupt and women were not taking advantage of their "biological duties." The society now is women staying at home, servants, or "Unwomen", who are the women who are declared infertile and did not have any social status. The "Unwomen" are sent to the "colonies," which are toxic waste sites, to work, and the life expectancy there is less than three years. The main character, Offred (Kate was her real name), is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. Handmaids are the few fertile women left in the United States, and are sent to households and become pregnant by the man of the house and are trained for giving birth at the "Red Center." Offred is sent to a house of a powerful Commander. The Commander also has a Wife that lives in the house. The other servants in the house are Rita and Cora, the Marthas who do the cooking and housework, and Nick the chauffer, who later becomes Offred's lover. Offred is allowed to leave the house once a day to run grocery errands with a walking friend, Ofglen, who is another handmaid. Off...


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...h the arranged marriages and Handmaids. He also says, "Sometimes when you try to make things better, it's not better for everyone."

In the movie, the reasoning is approached the same type of way. Offred tries to ask the Commander about why the government changed and he replies

Nobody knew how to feel anything anymore...about respect, reverence, values you can feel in your heart, or in your case, your womb.

What the Commander says here is almost the same as what he says in the book: some women could not fulfill their destinies because of how society had become corrupted.

Generally, the film follows the storyline of Atwood's book quite well other than a few exceptions. The changes the movie made probably do work better just because of the fact that it is a movie. Some things are better explained in books than they could ever be explained in a movie.



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