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Handmaid's Tale Research Project

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Jyothsna Mulpuri

on 31 October 2013

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Transcript of Handmaid's Tale Research Project

LRP: The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale expresses her concerns about society becoming overly conservative by using a brothel, Jezebel's, to reveal the shortcomings of a theocratic society. The hypocrisy of the government and its commanders, the destruction of Moira's spirit, and Offred's passive resistance to Gilead expose how subjugating women fails at addressing heightened sexuality.
Offred's Passive Resistance to Gilead
Destruction of Moira's Spirit
Moira's Personality Before Jezebel
How Society Can Change a Person

"Moira took Janine by the shoulders and shook her. Snap out of it" (Atwood, 216)
The School
Questions for Further Research
Getting Settled in Commander Fred's House
"Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary." (Atwood, 33)
"I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure...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." (Atwood, 73-74)
Question 1
In what ways does the theocratic system of the Republic of Gilead sacrifice the well-being of the many in order to benefit the few? What does this say about how theocratic societies function in general?
Question 2
What role does Moira play in the plot of the story? How does the contrast between Moira's and Offred's personality contribute to the effectiveness of Atwood's message?
The Secret Meetings
"When I kiss him [the commander] goodnight, as if I mean it, his breath smells of alcohol, and I breathe it in like smoke. I admit I relish it, this lick of dissipation." (Atwood, 271)

"Secretly I like the idea, I haven't had a drink for years." (Atwood, 310)

"How easy it is to invent a humanity for anyone at all, what an available temptation." (Atwood)
Question 3
What was the purpose of Atwood concluding the novel in such an ambiguous manner? In what way does this contribute to the meaning of the work as a whole?
"I left that old hag Aunt Elizabeth tied up like a Christmas turkey behind the furnace. I wanted to kill her." (Atwood, 244)
Hypocrisy of the Government
Hypocrisy of the Commanders
Moira's Interpretation
"Hell no...Government issue. I guess they thought it was me." (Atwood-242)
"They had silent prayers every evening. I found that hard to get used to at first, because it reminded me too much of that shit at the Center. It made me feel sick to my stomach." (Atwood, 247)
Moira's Personality After Jezebel
Outside Source
"Perhaps...she traveled with the underground, telling a story that exposed the hypocrisy of the Commander and his wife and compromised the system as a whole" (Stillman)

"She has a black bowtie wearing black net stockings and black high heels. She always hated high heels" (Atwood, 239)
"you look like something the cat dragged in" (242)
"You look like something the cat dragged in" (Atwood, 242)
The Aunts of Jezebels
"Rest break once an hour... You know the rules" (Atwood-241)
"She is frightening me now, because what I hear in her voice is indifference, a lack of volition... I don't want her to be like me... I want gallantry from her, swash-buckling, heroism, single-handed combat." (Atwood, 249)
Governmental Oversight
"The official creed denies them, denies their very existence, yet here they are." (Atwood-235)
Moira's Point of View
"they get a kick out of it... It's like screwing on the altar...Just another crummy power trip" (Atwood-243)
The Intoxication of Power
"He is demonstrating...his mastery of the world. He's breaking the rules...thumbing his nose at them, getting away with it. Perhaps he's reached the state of intoxication which power is said to inspire, the state in which you believe you are indispensable and can therefore do... anything at all" (Atwood-236)
"I've never worn anything remotely like this, so glittering and theatrical...the closest I ever came were bathing suits, and a camisole set, peach lace, that Luke bought for me once. Yet there's an enticement in this thing, it carries with it the childish allure of dressing up. And it would be so flaunting, such a sneer at the Aunts, so sinful, so free. Freedom, like everything else, is relative." (299)
The protagonist, Offred, is a handmaid who begins secret meetings with her commander, Fred, who ends up taking her to Jezebel's, a brothel for Commanders and their guests.
The Forbidden Clothing
"I wondered where he found it. All such clothing was supposed to have been destroyed" (Atwood-230)
LRP: The Handmaid's Tale
Gilead is a futuristic dystopian society in which procreation has become extremely difficult due to a nuclear war. Each individual is categorized into a group:

Commanders & Wives
Moira is Offred's best friend from the pre-Gilead era.

They attend Handmaid school together, although Moira breaks out and escapes.
Hypocrisy in the Theocracy
"Offred notes that the furnishings in her household attempt to subvert her memory of her past and replace it with official images of "the good old days" before feminists insisted upon women's liberation." (Armbruster)
"We had to come out of all kinds of closets. We divorced husbands, dropped boyfriends, changed careers, proudly proclaimed our lesbianism." (Armbruster)
Works Cited
Armbruster, Jane. "Memory and Politics — A Reflection on 'The Handmaid's Tale.'" Social Justice 17.3 (1990): 146-52. JSTOR. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/29766564>.

Atwood, Margaret. Jezebels. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Random House, 1998. 200-55. Print.

Bloom, Harold, ed. "Offred." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 24 Oct. 2013 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=101083&SID=5&iPin=BGTHT04&SingleRecord=True>.

Stillman, Peter G., and Anne Johnson, S. "Identity, Cpmlicity, and Resistence in The Handmaid's Tale." Utopian Studies 5.2 (1994): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20719314>.

"Caucasian women are selected, imprisoned, and trained as childbearing handmaids to reverse plummeting Caucasian birth rates." (Armbruster)
Jezebels in "The Handmaid's Tale"
by Margaret Atwood

"Though the tale is compelling, Offred reminds readers throughout the narrative that her subjective lens is altering and guiding the tale as she tells it—making her somewhat unreliable as a narrator—but also, readers learn at the end, male historians edited, ordered, and transcribed her story." (Bloom)
The Affair with Nick
"Being here with him is safety; it's a cave, where we huddle together while the storm goes on outside. This is a delusion, of course." (Atwood, 269)

"I tell him my real name, and feel therefore that I am known." (Atwood, 270)

"Neither of us says love, not once. It would be tempting fate; it would be romance, bad luck." (Atwood, 270)
Fun Extras
The Handmaid's Tale Offred's Anthem Moira's Anthem
Movie Trailer
Full transcript