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Setting in the Handmaid's Tale


SlotFive GroupSix

on 21 March 2011

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Transcript of Setting in the Handmaid's Tale

SETTING IN THE HANDMAID'S TALE It's All the Same Except.... An example of how
the setting stays the
same but the meaning
changes.... Pg. 73 - "The same as
before, except that
now it's obligatory." An example of how the setting has remained the same but the purpose has changed....
“To the tolling of the bell we walk along the paths once used by students, past buildings that were once lecture halls and dormitories." (340)

“We file onto the wide lawn in front of what used to be the library. The white steps going up are still the same, the main entrance is unaltered... “(340) HOW ARE CHARACTERS LIMITED BY THE SETTING? Offred Actions & Choices No rights
Her old life has been taken from her Cambridge ... The meaning or purpose
of the setting has changed. The doctors office which was a choice
to go or not becomes an obligatory
affair. This shows how the doctor's office and the purpose (ex - urine tests, hormone tests, cancer smears, and bood tests) have remained the same but the meaning has changed. They don't go because they choose to go for their own health, but because they are forced to go. This shows the control that the government has Pg. 38 - "On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue." In this case the building has stayed the same, but the purpose of the building has changed. Night "From the outside you can't tell that anything's changed, except that the blinds on most of the windows are drawn down. These buildings belong to the eyes now." Pg. 340 Another example of how the meaning has changed are the stores. They are still where you get food items, but the freedom is not there. "Everything is the same, the very same as it was, once upon a time.... All is the same." - Pg. 316..... Past Present Since..... "Lilies used to be a movie theater, before." - Pg. 31 "The sidewalks here are cement. Like a child, I avoid stepping on cracks. I'm remembering my feet on these sidewalks, in the time before, and what I used to wear on them." Pg. 30 The sidewalk allows Offred to think of past events and compare them to how things are in her present days as a Handmaid. Pg. 30 - Offred mentions that before "women were not protected" but had their own control but now females are protected from any "man who shouts obscenities" and have no control. How is setting revealed to the reader? How are characters limited by the setting? Is Gilead a Palimpsest? What is a Palimpsest? Something reused or altered but still bearing visable traces of it's earlier form. Gilead's palimpsestic characteristics: Gilead was created out of an already existing city. Roads, rivers and buildings are all the same except that they have either been renamed or the purpose has changed. Offred Actions Choices Handmaid Stripped of her rights "You can see the place, under the lily, where the lettering was painted out." Pg. 30 "We are two-legged wombs, that’s all; sacred vessels, ambulatory-chalices" (136) Freedom Memories Alone Escape “The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet. As long as I don’t move. As long as I lie still... But the night is my time out. Where should I go? Somewhere good.” (47) Restricted No rights Not allowed to work “This garden is the domain of the Commander’s Wife… Many of the wives have such gardens it’s something for them to order and maintain and care for.” (14) Wife Republic of Gilead Men: oppression injustice intolerance lies suffering tyranny Women: Have no rights
Only significant role is bearing children Have some rights
Also limited by the government The Commanders Not as powerful as they seem Must follow the laws imposed by the government These laws push them to take part in forbidden activities. Like going to Jezebel's and buying things off the black market CLUES POINTING TO LOCATION  “Doctors lived here once, lawyers, university professors. There are no lawyers anymore, and the university is closed.” (29)

“On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white, and gold and blue… The football stadium is that way too, where they hold the Men’s Salvagings.” (38-39)

"I can remember where the buildings are, inside the Wall; we used to be able to walk freely there, when it was a university." ( 207)

“To the tolling of the bell we walk along the paths once used by students, past buildings that were once lecture halls and dormitories." (340)

“We file onto the wide lawn in front of what used to be the library. The white steps going up are still the same, the main entrance is unaltered... “(340)  “The church is a small one, one of the first erected here, hundreds of years ago. It isn’t used any more, except as a museum. Inside it you can see paintings of women in long sombre dresses, their hair tightly covered by white caps, and upright men, darkly clothed and unsmiling. Our ancestors. Admission is free.” (39) Descriptions “The lawns are tidy, the façades are gracious, in good repair; they're like the beautiful pictures they used to print in the magazines about homes and gardens and interior decoration. There is the same absence of people, the same air of being asleep. The street is almost like a museum, or a street in a model town constructed to show the way people used to live. As in those pictures, those museums, those model towns, there are no children.
This is the heart of Gilead…" (29)

“The Wall is hundreds of years old too; or over a hundred, at least. Like the sidewalks, it’s red brick, and must have once been plain but handsome. Now the gates have sentries and there are ugly new floodlights mounted on the metal posts above it, and barbed wire along the bottom and broken glass set in concrete along the top. …” (40) Gilead: Offred's room: "A chair, a table, a lamp. Above, on the white ceiling, a relief ornament in the shape of a wreath, and in the center of it a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a face where the eye has been taken out. There must have been a chandelier once. They've removed anything you could tie a rope to."(7) "I know why there is no glass in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window only opens partys and why the glass is shatterproof." (8) Red Center: “In army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces between so we couldn’t talk…” (4) "We slep in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there." (3) Jezebel's: "There's a rest area, gently lit in pinkish tones, with several easy chairs and a sofa, in a limegreen bamboo-shoot print, with a wall clock above it in a gold filigree frame. Here they haven't removed the mirror, there's a long one opposite the sofa. You need to know; here, what you look like." (303) 2 Reasons: 1) Allusion to the pilgrims Massachusetts was the first place the pilgrims landed
Many were Puritans “The society in The Handmaid's Tale is a throwback to the early Puritans ... The early Puritans came to America not for religious freedom, as we were taught in grade school, but to set up a society that would be a theocracy (like Iran) ruled by religious leaders, and monolithic, that is, a society that would not tolerate dissent within itself. They were being persecuted in England for being Puritans, but then they went to the United States and promptly began persecuting anyone who wasn't a Puritan. My book reflects the form and style of the early Puritan society and addresses the dynamics that bring about such a situation.” 2) Center of liberalism in the States Religious & intolerant
Settled in Massachusetts in the 17th Century
The Puritan Society is paralleled throughout the novel Who were the Puritans? WHY CAMBRIDGE? Atwood said: People from this area are often more tolerant and their values and ideals are often far ahead of other American states. Location of Harvard University “You often hear in North America, "It can't happen here," but it happened quite early on. The Puritans banished people who didn't agree with them, so we would be rather smug to assume that the seeds are not there. That's why I set the book in Cambridge.” - Atwood Considered at the time to be the "intellectual heart" of America The university is present but closed - used for other purposes in the novel. Place of learning and pursuit of knowledge The red center is another example. As an old high school, which used to occupy both genders, visable traits of the past have been left behind for the building that only houses females now. Sometime in the not so distant future 1986 Now part of the Repulic of Gilead WHERE? What used to be Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States The Republic of Gilead = Theocratic and totalitarian regime A government ruled by or subject to religious authority. Theocracy Ruled by religious leaders
Government controls every aspect of the lives of their people WHEN? "This washroom used to be for boys. The mirrors have been replaced here too by oblongs of dull gray metal, but the urinals are still there, on one wall, white enamel with yellow stains." - Pg. 90 Setting "Luke and I used to walk together, sometimes, along these streets." - Pg. 28 Simple details of the setting such as the streets, help Offred remember things of her past. Offred associates exploring her room with how she explored hotel rooms. This brings on a memory of her and Luke. Offred proceeds to remember details such as what she wore, did and how she felt. (Pg. 62) Allows Offred to remember moments from her past
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