Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Length: 937 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Aug 2018
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=143450>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Love of God replaces love of humanity in Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred’s recollections of her past life, especially of her husband, are ones filled with passion and happiness as she remembers his tenderness towards her. Much more emphasis is put on the physical human form in her memories; she often remembers lying with her husband while she wears little or no clothing. Appreciation of the human form is an essential component of loving humanity....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid Tale Essays]

Research Papers
1418 words (4.1 pages)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay examples

- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Chapter nine opening section two of the novel is mainly recalling the last chapters and about the narrator rediscovering herself, surfacing the truth. In section one we see the narrator talking in the present tense in a very descriptive form, outlining the novel. However in section two we see her talking in the past tense demonstrating the stories she is telling. The separation between the human and the natural world and the narrator’s struggle with language most directly portrays the novel's dualities....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]

Research Papers
1712 words (4.9 pages)

Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

- Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Imagine if you can, living in a world that tells you what you are to wear, where to live, as well as your position and value to society. In Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, she shows us the Republic of Gilead does just that. Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid, whose usefulness is her ovaries. Handmaids are ordered to live in a house with a Commander, his wife, and once a month attempt to become pregnant by the Commander....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Atwood Margaret Essays]

Research Papers
1784 words (5.1 pages)

Society in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Essay

- “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....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood Essays]

Research Papers
2516 words (7.2 pages)

The United States as a Dystopian society in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale

- In the Days of Anarchy To live in a country such as the United States of America is considered a privilege. The liberties that American citizens are entitled to, as declared in the Constitution, makes the United States an attractive and envied democracy. It would be improbable to imagine these liberties being stripped from American society. However, Margaret Atwood depicts the United States as a dystopian society in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The first society is modern America, with its autonomy and liberal customs....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid's Tale]

Free Essays
1122 words (3.2 pages)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay example

- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale In "The Handmaid's Tale", Margaret Atwood tells a saddening story about a not-to-distant future where toxic chemicals and abuses of the human body have resulted in many men and women alike becoming sterile. The main character, Offred, gives a first person encounter about her subservient life as a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a republic formed after a bloody coup against the United States government. She and her fellow handmaids are fertile women that the leaders of Gilead, the Commanders, enslave to ensure their power and the population of the Republic....   [tags: Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]

Research Papers
1236 words (3.5 pages)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale The Historical Notes are important in the way we perceive the novel as they answer many important questions raised by the novel and also enhance some of the novels main themes. The first question it answers is the one raised at the end of the novel; that is whether Offred is stepping up into the,'darkness,' or the, 'light.' The reader finds out that Offred escaped Gilead, presumably into Canada, with the help of the,'Underground Femaleroad.' The reader also learns that it was Nick who orchestrated her escape, using his position as a member of the Eyes....   [tags: Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]

Research Papers
978 words (2.8 pages)

Symbolism and Loss of Identity in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

- Symbolism and Loss of Identity in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Offred recounts the story of her life and that of others in Gilead, but she does not do so alone. The symbolic meanings found in the dress code of the women, the names/titles of characters, the absence of the mirror, and the smell and hunger imagery aid her in telling of the repugnant conditions in the Republic of Gilead. The symbols speak with a voice of their own and in decibels louder than Offred can ever dare to use....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays Atwood ]

Research Papers
934 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

- The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Offred is a Handmaid in what used to be the United States, now the theocratic Republic of Gilead. In order to create Gilead's idea of a more perfect society, they have reverted to taking the Book of Genesis at its word. Women no longer have any privileges; they cannot work, have their own bank accounts, or own anything. The also are not allowed to read or even chose who they want to marry. Women are taught that they should be subservient to men and should only be concerned with bearing children....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]

Research Papers
1097 words (3.1 pages)

Essay on The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood In every human beings life, one is given freedoms. With freedom comes responsibility, consequence following close behind. Sometimes this freedom is not freedom to do, but freedom from harm. The extreme form of this would form a Garrison mentality. A Garrison mentality is a situation in which a society protects but also confines an individual. “There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
730 words (2.1 pages)



Gilead, the ultra religious military regime is a reaction to the
dramatic drop in birth rate. In the novel, Aunt Lydia, one of the
women in charge of the Red Centre where handmaids are trained
described Gilead; she said, "The republic of Gilead knows no bounds.
Gilead is within you." Offered, replied inwardly "doctors lived here
once, lawyers, university professors. There are no lawyers anymore,
and the university is closed" (Atwood, 29). Here, off red’s comment
says much about the social conditions in Gilead. Since the university
is closed, secular learning is no longer allowed, the only studying is
done on the Bible, and not by women because they are forbidden to read
and write. The Bible had a huge impact on Gilead's policies. The idea
of handmaids came from the story of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob's wife
could not conceive, so Jacob and the servant had a child, which became
Jacob and Rachel’s. It is obvious that Gilead is a very repressive
place. Later, in Off red's taped recordings about Gilead she said
"it's also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell rather
than write because I have nothing to write with and writing in any
case is forbidden (Atwood 50). It is the Handmaids who must do the
daily grocery shopping, and since they are not permitted to read, the
store names are pictures, a lamb chop for All Flesh, the butcher shop,
for example. The domination of women is astonishing in this state. It
is almost insulting for these women, who used to have jobs, their own
money, and freedom to do anything they wanted to have to stoop to this
level. These women remember what it used to be like, and they want it
to be like that again, but are afraid to rebel because of the wall,
and the salvagings. The wall is where Off red and her companion Of
glen pass every day. It is where they hang the enemies of the state.
Any people who are suspected of betrayal are killed. When a man is
accused of rape, or a similar crime against women, they are sent into
a circle of angry Handmaids, who are expected to tear him apart. In
the novel, during the salvaging Of glen appears tore act extremely
violently towards an accused man, she ran up to him and kicked him in
the head until he was unconscious. She explained later to Off red that
he was no rapist, only a member of the underground rebellion. She
wanted to end his suffering.

Due to the lack open rebellion, Off red’s society is faced with the
complete loss of freedom. Women are now forbidden any kind of
communication. They have to lead a life of servitude and are stripped
of all personal possessions, of their families, and finally their
identities. They are all replaceable, categorized objects, Handmaids
who are deemed infertile are sent to the colonies to die. The women
are also made to wear uniforms and are named to be defined in their
relation to men, for example Off red serves Fred, and his wife is
known only as Wife. The uniforms in Gilead categorize each group by
colour; this serves to segregate them, like the Jews during World War
II. The Wives, who are the highest on the list, wear only, light blue.
The Handmaids must wear red and the Martha’s wear brown. The men all
wear similar military uniforms. The Handmaid’s uniform is reminiscent
of women in the Middle East, because they are made to hide the women's
bodies and prevent them from being seen:

"I get up out of the chair, advance my feet into the sunlight, in
their red shoes, flat-heeled to save the spine and not for dancing.
The red gloves are lying on the bed. I pick them up; pull them onto my
hands, finger by finger. Everything except the wings around my face is
red: the colour of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle length,
full and gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the
sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed issue; they keep
us from seeing, but also from being seen. I never looked good in red,
it's not my colour".

The bulky red dress is designed to hide the Handmaid's bodies and the
wings are made to keep the women from being seen. The women are taught
to bow their heads when they walk so that their faces cannot be seen.
This is a further example of the domination of women in this novel.
Atwood’s point in demonstrating the oppression of women is not to be
ultra feminist or to put down men, but to show the dangers of such a
regime as Gilead, because it became such a patriarchal state, and in
its wake, women were utterly repressed. It happened so fast, that
women did not have time to revolt, and after Gilead came to power, if
women did speak up they would be sent to the colonies.

Social commentary is rampant in this novel. Margaret Atwood purposely
wrote this shocking and absurd tale to shock people into thinking
about such problems as toxic waste, pollution and radiation. Not only
environmental concerns were voiced in this novel, but social ills such
as female repression and the dangers of a theocracy as well. Reading
this novel was a wake up call, and I have since taken up recycling.
Return to 123HelpMe.com