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The use of names in The Handmaids Tale

AP Lit Project

Selena Newton

on 1 October 2014

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Transcript of The use of names in The Handmaids Tale

Status in Society

"black, for the Commander,
, for the Commander's
, and the one assigned to
, which is
" (Atwood 9)
--“Offred also fails to maintain her identity...
because in Gilead...apparent forms of
resistance or attempts to create...identity frequently
turn into complicity with the regime.”
-ICR in The Handmaid's Tale
The use of names in The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
* Author: Margaret Atwood
* Published 1986
* Setting: Gilead- a futuristic totalitarian Christian theocracy
* Centered on narrator "Offred", a 'handmaid' of Gilead
* Written in response to the anti-feminist movement of the 1980's
* Explores themes of women in subjugation and how they gain their own personal freedoms

Biblical Allusions
“Martha was distracted with much serving.” Luke 10:40

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1986. Print.

Callaway, Alanna A., "Women disunited : Margaret Atwood's The handmaid's tale as a critique of feminism" (2008).Master's Theses.
Paper 3505

Hansot, Elisabeth. "Selves, Survival, and Resistance in The Handmaid's Tale." Penn State University Press 5.2 (1994): 56-69. Print.

Ketterer, David. "Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale': A Contextual Dystopia." Science Fiction Studies 16.2 (1989): 209-17. Print.

Stillman, Peter G., and S. Anne Johnson. "Identity, Complicity, and Resistance in The Handmaid's Tale." Penn State University Press 5.2 (1994): 70-86. Print.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "The Handmaid's Tale." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 9 Oct. 2013 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=101083&SID=5&iPin=EFL596&SingleRecord=True>.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "The Handmaid's Tale." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 9 Oct. 2013 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=101083&SID=5&iPin=EGL172&SingleRecord=True>.

Gaydosik, Victoria. "The Handmaid's Tale." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 9 Oct. 2013 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=101083&SID=5&iPin=CBNII233&SingleRecord=True>.

by Sasha Bartol, Selena Newton and Piyush Karki
"This woman has been my partner for two weeks.
I don't know what happened to the one before.
On a certain day she simply wasn't there
anymore, and this one was there in her
place...Her name is Ofglen" (Atwood 19)
"My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which
nobody uses now because it's forbidden. I tell myself it doesn't matter...but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter." (Atwood 84)
The womens' memories of names from before Gilead demonstrate the womens' desperate attempts at reclaiming their personal identities and further revealing their social status. Atwood's use of names demonstrates the degradation and objectification of women by the society of Gilead, as well as its use of the Bible to justify its self-righteous actions.
Reclaiming Personal Identity
"In this way we exchanged names from
bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June." (Atwood 4)"
Outside Source Quotes
--“Like mirrors,
both identify and mask
their carriers.
Offred digs
up her real name like a
buried treasure..."
-SSR in The
Handmaid's Tale
--“Using a name from the past is
treason in Gilead...abbreviated
biographies are attached to
names, and...the handmaids
create temporary sites of non-compliance.”
-SSR in The Handmaid's Tale
--“Under threat for minor infractions the handmaids reclaim identity by introducing themselves by their former names”
-Encyclopedia of FL
Future Research
Did only female names change, or were the names of the lower classes changed as well, including males? How would each possibility contribute to the overaching significance of the usage of names?
Why does Atwood choose to set her tale in the town of Cambridge, Massachusettss? How does it relate to the original puritan settlers and to this town as the location of one of the nations most prestigious universities? What does this mean for and about Gilead?

"...nobody much cares who sees the face of a Martha."
"Why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen?
Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson."
"One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. "
Acts 16:12-15
"A shape like mine, a nondescript woman in red carrying a basket" (Atwood 19)
Outside References
"As Wives, Aunts, Handmaids, Marthas, Econowives or Widows, women are confined to the household, with only two alternatives: banishment or prostitution" (Callaway 41)
Why did Atwood create such a hopeless world for women?... what was her goal?
"Atwood says of The Handmaid's Tale: "It is an imagined account of what happens when not uncommon pronouncements about women are taken to their logical conclusions.""- From Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations
"The male-dominated power structure relies on women to regulate one another and enforce social standards" (Callaway 10)
"But theocracy is a live menace: in Iran and Afghanistan, in the influence of the Christian Coalition upon the Republican Party, and on a much smaller scale, in the tyranny over English-speaking universities of our New Puritans, the academic feminists. "
“Of course some of them will try, said Aunt Lydia…They can't help it, she said, God made them that way but He did not make you that way.” (Atwood 30)
"Ofglen, wherever she is, is no longer Ofglen" (Atwood 383)
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