Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Satisfactory Essays
Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood This novel is an account of the near future; a dystopia, where pollution and radiation has rendered countless women sterile, and the birth rates of North America are dangerously declining. A puritan theocracy now controls the former United States called the Republic of Gilead and Handmaids are recruited to repopulate the state. This novel contains Atwood’s strong sense of social awareness, as seen in the use of satire to comment on different social conditions in the novel. The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning to young women of the 'post-feminist' 1980s and after, who began taking for granted the rights that had been secured for women by the women before them. The environmental danger of pollution and radiation run off from power plants is commented on in the novel. Atwood is voicing her concerns about the destruction of the environment here, and warns us of the possibilities if the destruction continues in our world. Her view is extreme of course, made to shock people into thinking about the potential danger. In the novel, pollution and radiation had overwhelmed the population causing sterility in both men and women. Babies were often born deformed, (these were called 'Unbabies') or died during pregnancy or shortly after birth. At one point in the novel, a funeral is described by the main character Offered, she said "the first one is bereaved, the mother; she carries a small black jar. From the size of the jar you can tell how old it was when it foundered, inside her, flowed to its death. Two or three months, too early to tell whether or not it was an Unbaby"(Atwood, 55). The infertile women, rebels and feminists were sent to the 'colonies' to clean toxic waste, where of course they die of either disease or radiation. Atwood incorporated the environmental disaster into her novel as a warning, her point being that it could happen, and if it did, here is what might happen; mankind could go to an extreme, religious, totalitarian state: the Republic of Gilead.