Society in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Essay

Society in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Essay

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“Atwood’s feminism is an integral part of her critical approach, just
as her concept of criticism is inseparable from her creative work”
Walter Pache (1).

A dystopia is a fictional society, usually existing in a future time
period, in which the condition of life is extremely difficult due to
deprivation, oppression or terror. In most dystopian fiction, a
corrupt government creates or sustains the poor quality of life, often
conditioning the masses to believe the society is proper and just,
even perfect. Most dystopian fiction takes place in the future but
purposely incorporates contemporary social trends taken to horrendous

The novel, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, by Margaret Atwood focuses on the
choices made by those controlling the society of Gilead in which
increasing the population and preservation of mankind is the main
objective, instead of freedom or happiness. The society has undergone
many physical changes that have extreme psychological consequences. I
believe Atwood sees Gilead as the result of attitudes and events in
the early 1980s, which have spiralled out of control. ‘The Handmaid’s
Tale’ reflects Atwood’s views and critiques on civilisation. In an
interview with Gabriele Metzler Atwood says, “There is nothing in the
book that hasn’t already happened. All things described in the book
people have already done to each other”(2).

Throughout ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Offred is constantly conscious of her
life before Gilead. This is reflected in the sections of the book
headed “Night”. Offred often refers back to her life with her daughter
and Luke, “Luke was in the living room. He put his arms around me. We
were both feeling miserable. How were we to know we were happy, even
then? Becaus...

... middle of paper ...

...e extreme, she managed to visualise a
dystopian world, which suppressed people’s freedom of choice. “Atwood
is known as an outspoken defender of humanitarian values, an able and
active advocate for woman’s rights and for freedom of speech” Nathalie
Cooke (6). Therefore I do believe that Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s
Tale’ offers a very strong critique of American society in the 1980s.


(1) Walter Pache: “A Certain Frivolity”: Margaret Atwood’s Literary

(2) Gabriele Metzler: “Creativity”: An Interview with Margaret Atwood

(3) Bernard Richards: Margaret Atwood

(4) Gabriele Metzler: “Creativity”: An Interview with Margaret Atwood

(5) Lorna Irvine: “Recycling Culture: Kitsch, Camp and Trash”:
Margaret Atwood’s Fiction

(6) Nathalie Cooke: “Lions, Tigers and Pussycats”: Margaret Atwood
(Auto) Biographically

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