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Concepts to contemplate from from The Handmaid’s Tale.

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1 Concepts to contemplate from from The Handmaid’s Tale

2 Themes within the novel What are some of the significant themes within the novel? Discuss with a partner and jot down what you think is the most significant theme

3 What does Spark notes say? do we agree? Women’s Bodies as Political Instruments Because Gilead was formed in response to the c dramatically decreased birthrates, the state’s entire structure, with its religious trappings, is built around a single goal: control of reproduction. The state tackles the problem head-on by assuming complete control of women’s bodies through their political subjugation. Women cannot vote, hold property or jobs, read, or do anything else that might allow them to become subversive or independent and thereby undermine the state. Such subjugation creates a society in which women are treated as subhuman. Women are reduced to their fertility, treated as nothing more than a set of ovaries and a womb. Gilead seeks to deprive women of their individuality in order to make them docile carriers of the next generation.

4 What does Spark notes Say? Do we Agree? say? do we agree? Language as a Tool of Power Gilead creates an official vocabulary that seeks to encapsulate people’s roles in life. Whereas men are defined by their military rank, women are defined solely by their gender roles as Wives, Handmaids, or Marthas. Stripping them of permanent individual names strips them of their individuality, or tries to. Feminists and deformed babies are treated as subhuman, denoted by the terms “Unwomen” and “Unbabies.” This sets them apart from the rest of society, making their persecution easier. There are prescribed greetings Specially created terms define the rituals of Gilead, such as Salvagings,” ” Dystopian novels about the dangers of totalitarian society frequently explore the connection between a state’s repression of its subjects and its perversion of language (“Newspeak” in George Orwell’s 1984 is the most famous example), and The Handmaid’s Tale carries on this tradition. Gilead maintains its control over women’s bodies by maintaining control over names.

5 Motifs Religious Terms Used for Political Purposes: Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. Gilead is a theocracy—a government in which there is no separation between state and religion—and its official vocabulary incorporates religious terminology and biblical references. For example, servants are called “Marthas” in reference to a domestic character in the New Testament; the local police are “Guardians of the Faith”; soldiers are “Angels”; and the Commanders are officially “Commanders of the Faithful.” All the stores have biblical names: Loaves and Fishes and All Flesh. Even the automobiles have biblical names like Chariot. Using religious terminology to describe people, ranks, and businesses whitewashes political skullduggery in pious language. It provides an ever-present reminder that the founders of Gilead insist they act on the authority of the Bible itself. Politics and religion sleep in the same bed in Gilead, where the slogan “God is a National Resource” predominates. The Eyes - symbolism The Eyes of God are Gilead’s secret police. Both their name and their insignia, a winged eye, symbolize the eternal watchfulness of God and the totalitarian state. In Gilead’s theocracy, the eye of God and of the state are assumed to be one and the same.

6 Deconstruction “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will... Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping” This passage is from Chapter 13, when Offred sits in the bath, naked, and contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she thinks about it now. Before, her body was an instrument, an extension of her self; now, her self no longer matters, and her body is only important because of its “central object,” her womb, which can bear a child. Offred’s musings show that s he has internalized Gilead’s attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as objects important only for the children that they can bear. Women’s wombs are a “national resource,” the state insists, using language that dehumanizes women and reduces them to, as Offred puts it, “a cloud, congealed around a central object, which is hard and more real than I am.”

7 Let’s Deconstruct together “The chances are one in four, we learned that at the centre. The air got too full, once, of chemicals, rays, radiation, the water swarmed with toxic molecules, all of that takes years to clean up, and meanwhile they creep into your body, camp out in your fatty cells. Who knows your very flesh may be polluted, dirty as an oily beach, sure death to shore birds and unborn babies. Maybe a vulture would die of eating you. Maybe you light up in the dark, like an old fashioned watch. Deathwatch. That’s a kind of beetle, it buries carrion.” Page 106, Chapter 19.

8 Your Turn “I sit in my chair, the wreath on the ceiling floating above my head, like a frozen halo, a zero. A whole in space where a star exploded. A ring, on water, where a stone’s been thrown. All things white and circular. I wait for the day to unroll, for the earth to turn, according to the round face of the implacable clock. The geometrical days, which go around and around smoothly oiled. Sweat already on my upper lip, I await the arrival of the inevitable egg, which will be lukewarm like the room and will have a green film on the yolk and will taste faintly of sulphur.” p. 188, Chapter 12.

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