Feminist Ideas in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

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Feminist Ideas in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

For this essay, we focused strictly on critics' reactions to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. For the most part, we found two separate opinions about The Handmaid's Tale, concerning feminism. One opinion is that it is a feminist novel, and the opposing opinion that it is not. Feminism: A doctrine advocating social, political, and economic rights for women equal to those of men as recorded in Webster's Dictionary. This topic is prevalent in the novel The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood, a Canadian writer, spends most of her time featuring women in her books, novels, and poetry that examine their relationships in society. In the book Atwood centers her novel on a girl whom happens to be one of the handmaids. These handmaids are essentially women used for the birthing of babies. According to Atwood in one of her many interviews, "women were intrinsically good and men bad; to divide along allegiance lines--that is, women who wore high heels and makeup were instantly suspect, those in overalls were acceptable"(Problems of). These ideas were and have been created by our social and political system and could not be fixed until such systems have been reformed. The feminist ideas that are expressed in this novel are necessary. Besides, these women do exist not only in the novel but women like this exist in real life. The women are treated as property instead of human beings. The one and only purpose in their lives is to have children. The dystopic novel that she created isolated certain social trends and exaggerated them to make clear their most negative qualities. Pornography is a huge factor in The Handmaid's Tale. It is apparent in chapter twenty where Offred describes...

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... up ways of escaping out of the situation, either by fleeing or death, but is too chicken to try them. A feminist, like Moira, tried and tried to escape until they just about beat her down. Offred was a disgrace to the female sex, in that she never took it upon herself to better her situation, or to be rid of it for good. These examples are the reason critics tend to see the anti-feminism side of The Handmaid's Tale.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Anchor Books: New York, New York, 1985.

Atwood, Margaret. "Spotty-Handed Villainesses." Problems of Female Bad Behavior in the Creation of Literature, 1994,

Works Consulted

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Anchor Books: New York, New York, 1985.

Tomc, Sandra. "The Missionary Position." Canadian Literature Fall/Winter 1993: 73- 84.
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