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A Study Guide for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

A Study Guide for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

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A Study Guide for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

45 pagine
37 minuti
Aug 21, 2015


A Study Guide for Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," excerpted from Gale's acclaimed Novels for Students.This concise study guide includes plot summary; character analysis; author biography; study questions; historical context; suggestions for further reading; and much more. For any literature project, trust Novels for Students for all of your research needs.
Aug 21, 2015

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A Study Guide for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale - Gale


The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood



By the time The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985, Margaret Atwood had already been an internationally recognized figure in literature for twenty years. Her work has been characterized as having a feminist focus, and this novel certainly fit into that simple understanding; the story describes a society where dehumanization of women is not just a custom but actually the law.

What keeps the novel from being only a work of propaganda for feminist ideology is the complexity and roundness of all of the characters. Among the male characters, one is willing to fight with the underground against the oppressive government and another, who is at the top of this maleoriented social order, feels trapped by it and secretly breaks the laws in order to indulge himself in simple, meaningless pleasure. The female characters may be oppressed, but they are not portrayed as powerless victims. The novel's harshest judgements are applied to the Handmaid-in-training who sells out her own integrity by declaring her own guilt for being raped as a child, and to the narrator herself for lacking the nerve to help the underground resistance movement.

The Handmaid's Tale was a best seller at the time of its publication. It is possible that Atwood's reputation and the appeal of reading about contemporary social issues such as toxic waste, abortion and pornography helped its initial rise to fame, but its continuing popularity surely rests on its seamless, chillingly believable blending of modern religious fundamentalist attitudes with the historically proven methods of almost all totalitarian governments.

Author Biography

Margaret Atwood is one of the best-known Canadian writers of our day. She is certainly one of the most prolific authors in North America, having produced over twenty volumes of poetry and just as many books of fiction (including novels and short story collections), as well as important essays, dramas and children's books. Recognition for her work has included winning the Governor-General's Award twice, as well as the Coles Book of the Year Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Harvard University Centennial Medal.

She was born in Ottawa in 1939 and grew up in suburban Toronto. Her father was an entomologist, and during her childhood, Atwood, showing as much ability in science as she did in writing, believed that she would follow in his footsteps in the field of biology. Her talent as a writer became apparent early: in high school, she contributed poetry, short stories and cartoons to the school newspaper. Her first volume of poetry was published the same year that she graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and five years later her second book of poetry was given one of Canada's most coveted prizes, the Governor-General's Award. Since the 1960's she has taught at several Canadian and American universities, usually through honorary guest fellowships, and she has produced

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