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Biblical references and Religious Symbols in The Handmaid's

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Anisa Tahlil

on 16 May 2018

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Transcript of Biblical references and Religious Symbols in The Handmaid's

Biblical References and Religious Symbols in
The Handmaid's Tale

Written By Margaret Atwood
Importance/Influence of Religion
What happens if?
- Religion is used as a method to control the society?

Take a look at the republic of Gilead
* A government in which there is no separation between state and religion
Biblical References
Influence of the Bible on Gender Hierarchy
The story of Adam and eve
Adam and eve
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
“Notwithstanding she shall be saved by childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety”(277).

Influence of the Bible on the roles of the citizens
* The roles of the people in the republic of Gilead are justified with biblical references from the book of genesis
Virgin Mary
* Wives of the Commanders wear blue dresses to represent Virgin Mary
* Like Virgin Mary, these Wives believe they are granted a child from God through the Handmaids
The Handmaid's Tale
, Martha are infertile/old women who work in the households.

*In the Bible, the name Martha refers to the sister of Mary who served Jesus rather listened to his teachings.
Religious Symbols

Commanders of the faithful

guardians of the faith


eyes of the lord

:High status men
: Members of the Police Force
: soldiers who fight wars against other religions
: the secret police who helps maintain the order in Gilead
* Biblical names are used to signify the role of the citizens in Gilead
* In the novel, the Handmaids are used for reproductive purposes.

* Their role relates directly to the story of Rachel and Leah which is found in the Book of Genesis.

The story of Rachel and Leah
"And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her" (Epigraph).
Influence of Bible on the naming of objects and institutions


Handmaid's Education Center
Bakery/ Butchers
Rachel and Leah Center
"All Flesh" / " Milk and Honey"
Behemoth/ Chariot/ Whirlwind

“The war is going well, I hear,” she says.
“Praise be,” I reply.
“We've been sent good weather.”
“Which I receive with joy”(24).
Prayers/ Education
Rachel and Leah Center

"Blessed be this, blessed be that. They played it from a disc, the voice was a man's. Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed be the meek. Blessed are the silent."(110-111)
Soul Scrolls

"Once the prayers have been printed out and said, the paper rolls back through another slot and is recycled into fresh paper again. There are no people inside the building; the machines run by themselves"(209).
* The Republic of Gilead uses the Bible as a method to control the society and reach absolute patriarchal supremacy
But Why
Why would an agnostic author use biblical references and religious symbols in her novel?
Current Trends in our World Today
The deep foundation of the US – so went my thinking – was not the comparatively recent 18th-century Enlightenment structures of the republic, with their talk of equality and their separation of church and state, but the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, which would need only the opportunity of a period of social chaos to reassert itself( Margaret Atwood).
Religious Political leaders in the USA use biblical references in their speeches to win political support

Through the use of biblical references and religious symbols in
The Handmaid's Tale,
Atwood demonstrates the misuse of religion to achieve ulterior motives in our world today.
Are the people who control the state actually true believers? Is religion important to them or is it just another to method to control the society?

How about the religious politicians who use the biblical references for their own benefit? Are they true believers?
The misuse of religion can lead to the downfall of humanity as shown in
The Handmaid's Tale.
Thank you for listening


Jezebel :
the Queen of Israel who tempted men into lust.
* Gilead is a state that claims to function on the basis of Christianity but lacks morality and spirituality
Religious Political Leaders
Including Bush and Obama, many political leaders in the United States quote verses from the Old Testament in their speeches to grab the hearts of the many Christians in America.
Some religious Leaders from the Republic Party also use religion and the Bible as a method to win the political vote and achieve patriarchal supremacy.
Book of Genesis
* It is the book that the state follows

* It is also called the Christian Old Testament
Study of Human Nature
* Through her study of Human nature, Atwood realized the great importance and influence of religion on people.
focus on the novel
Atwood's Vision

According the David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Democrats did include a section in their 2012 platform specifically devoted to faith, writing faith "has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history."

Works Cited
In the Republicans' official 2012 party platform, God is mentioned ten times in various forms, including seven cases of the phrase "God-given."
"Haunted by The Handmaid's Tale." the guardian. N.p., 20 1 2012. Web. 15 Dec 2013.

Real, Willi. "Biblical Influences in The Handmaid's Tale in Class." heliweb.de. N.p., 14 7 2003. Web. 16 Dec 2013.

Russell, John. “Keeping God in Politics” The News Talkers.4 Sept.2012.Web.17 Dec.2013
Full transcript