World Literatures in English
The Handmaid's Tale
NY: Fawcett Crest Book, Ballantine 1985

  Margaret Atwood
on the first 50 pages (lecture outline)
  Plot Summary; Epigraphs
  The novel as a whole
Study Guide to The Handmaid's Tale (remote)
              A study guide prepared by Paul Brians of Washington State University
Other Related Websites

Also by Atwood: 

The Robber Bride
  "Bluebeard's Egg
  "Rape Fantasies" (a group report

Image from Maclean's Sept. 23, 1996
Margaret Atwood:
  1. Concerned with Canada's cultural identity; Feminist concerns; Survival (1972)
  2. Duality "Tricks with Mirror" Two-Headed Poems (1978); Victim mentality
  3. So far she's written 42 books; 10 novels;
  4. Styles: Postmodern, self-reflexive mode; mixing poetry and fiction, mixing a lot of genres (Gothic, detective story, fairy tales, family romance, comedy, allegory, etc.)
  5. Atwood on HA: '''I delayed writing it for about three years after I got the idea because I felt it was too crazy,'' Miss Atwood says.  ''Then two things happened. I started noticing that a lot of the things I thought I was more or less making up were now happening, and indeed more of them have happened since the publication of the book.  There is a sect now, a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids. They don't go in for polygamy of this kind but they do threaten the handmaids according to the biblical verse I use in the book - sit down and shut up. "
  6. The Handmaid's Tale not being science fiction but based on real political, historical and contemporary events." (from BBC Interviews Atwood (1996); this part)
  7. Atwood's 1987 essay opposing the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement: "Canada as a separate but dominated country has done about as well under the U.S. as women, worldwide, have done under men; about the only position they've ever adopted towards us, country to country, has been the missionary position, and we were not on top."(82)


  1. What does Atwood want to satirize through the imaginary nation, Gilead?
  2. How does the narrator, Offred, re-construct her identity after she is reduced to just the role of being a handmaid?  What does she remember?

The Handmaid's Tale: General Criticism:
  1. How does the handmaid resist?  Is she passive?  e.g. Not actively involved in May Day underground group, loves hand cream, Vogue, Sleeps with both the Commander and Nick, the ending.  -- from Margaret Atwood Revisited by Karen F. Stein

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