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Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Background Information and Context JC Clapp: English 102.

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Presentation on theme: "Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Background Information and Context JC Clapp: English 102."— Presentation transcript:

1 Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Background Information and Context JC Clapp: English 102

2 About the Author n Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in Canada. n She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. n She began writing at the age of six.

3 More About the Author n Atwood has worked as an English teacher and writer at various universities around the world. n She has received numerous literary awards. n The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1986.

4 The Handmaid’s Tale: Setting and Genre n Futuristic, cautionary, science fiction novel n Setting: The Republic of Gilead -- which is located in the near future where Boston is now

5 Overview n A highly organized group of right wing religious conservatives succeeds in setting off a revolution. They create a new society known as Gilead where women are stripped of all freedoms.

6 Context n The novel was published in 1986 during a backlash against the feminist movement. The tide had turned in favor of conservative values, and religious fundamentalism experienced a period of rapid growth of power and influence.

7 Characters: Offred n Offred is the narrator who belongs to the class of women known as Handmaids. Handmaids are fertile women forced into surrogate motherhood for elite, barren couples. n She struggles to maintain her faith in the face of her rigidly repressed status in Gilead.

8 Characters: The Commander n The Commander is the head of the household where Offred is stationed as a Handmaid. n He establishes an unorthodox relationship with Offred by spending time alone with her. n He has a callous attitude toward women. n He is a member of the Gileadean elite and is most likely one of the architects of Gileadean society.

9 Characters: Serena Joy n Serena is the Commander's Wife who belongs to the class of women with the greatest symbolic status in Gilead. n Before Gilead, Serena sang on a Sunday religious television program and give anti- feminist speeches stating that a woman's place was in the home. n She is unhappy and jealously guards her small claims to status, while being vengeful and cruel to the Handmaids in her household.

10 Characters: Moira n Moira was Offred's best friend before Gilead. n She was a staunch, bisexual feminist. She represents of the rebellious, courageous, resourceful heroine. n She escaped from the Red Center, but the Eyes recaptured her. n She chooses to work as a prostitute at Jezebel's rather than going to the Colonies. n Her final fate is unknown.

11 Characters: Luke n Luke was Offred's husband before Gilead came to be. n Although he is loving toward Offred, he is often sexist in his behavior and beliefs. n Neither Offred nor the reader find out what happened to Luke after his capture.

12 Characters: Aunt Lydia n Aunt Lydia is a sadistic Aunt at the Red Center. n Lydia belongs to the class of women assigned to the task of indoctrinating the Handmaids into Gileadean ideology. n Aunts are permitted greater freedom of movement than other women. Unlike other women, they are permitted to read, write, and carry weapons.

13 Characters: Aunt Elizabeth n Aunt Elizabeth is another one of the Aunts at the Red Center. n Moira attacks her and steals her costume during her escape from the Red Center.

14 Characters: Ofglen n Ofglen is also a handmaid who is Offred's shopping partner. n She reveals the existence of a subversive underground resistance. n Her identity as a subversive is discovered, and when she sees the black van of the Eyes of God coming for her, she hangs herself in order to protect her fellow subversives.

15 Characters: Nick n Nick is a member of the Eyes of God, the Gileadean secret police. n He is also a subversive rebel. n Serena Joy orchestrates a sexual encounter between Nick and Offred because she thinks her husband is sterile. n Nick and Offred soon begin a covert sexual affair. n Nick orchestrates Offred's escape from Gilead.

16 The Historical Notes n The end of the book is written as if scholars in the future are studying Gilead. n Notice how it’s written in a completely different tone and voice. n Read this section very carefully!


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