Study Guide For The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian feminist and speculative/science-fiction novel written by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood in 1985. The novel is presented in a disjointed form that shifts from past to present and that allows for most of the events of the story to occur and be pushed forward through the psyche of the narrator and the main character of the novel.
The novel is centered around the life of a Handmaid named Offred who was a working woman, a wife and a mother who enjoyed her independence along with her feminist mother and her lesbian friend Moira before the U.S government is overthrown and the theocratic and totalitarian republic of Gilead takes its place.
In this new regime women are robbed of their power and are forced to conform to their assigned labels and duties. Offred is classed as a Handmaid and Handmaids are fertile women who are assigned to Commanders in order to have intercourse with them and bear their children. Due to a major fertility crisis, only Handmaids are able to conceive.
Due to the stream of consciousness technique used by Atwood, the novel flows with the character’s thoughts, emotions and reactions to the events that occur in the past and the present. The reader never gets a sense of the full story until in much later chapters when Offred’s narratives of the past fused with the present are pieced together. However, the novel’s events are complicated when Offred begins to secretly defy the rules and is approached by another Handmaid Ofglen to join the resistance against Gilead.
Although often labeled as a science fiction novel, Atwood poses a distinction that her novel is most certainly not science fiction as science fiction is often removed from reality. The author’s novel is a combination of many incidents that have happened at some point in history and therefore the novel forces an individual to review or reassess their own reality.