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The Handmaid's Tale


Christine Mitchell

on 16 April 2010

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Transcript of The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
By: Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood She was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
She did not attend school full time until she was 11 years old and entering the 6th grade.
By age 16 she knew that she wanted to write professionally.
She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Offred Offred is not her real name, but her name is never mentioned. Offred is the protagonist of The Handmaid’s Tale. Because she was deemed an unfit mother (because her husband Luke was on his second marriage) her daughter was taken away from her and she went to the Center to become a handmaid. Physically it only briefly describes Offred as a woman who stands 5’7 without her shoes on with chestnut brown hair. The Commander The Commander's name is Fred and he is the Commader that Offred is placed with. He is nicer than most Commanders, but still has strange desires. He tries to fill these holes in his life by having Offred play Scrabble with him, giving him goodnight kisses, and even coming with him to “the club.” Serena Joy Serena Joy is now called Pam, but she was once a TV evangelist known as Serena Joy. She is a Wife and has a strong distaste for the handmaids, as most wives do. Moria Moira was Offred’s college roommate and eventual best friend in pre-Gilead times. Moira is very outspoken and successfully escapes the center, but ends up at “the club.” Nick Nick is the Guardian at the house Offred is placed at. He is also a private eye, and may even be part of the resistance. He begins a sexual relationship with Offred, which at first was arranged, but then becomes willingly his own choice. Aunt Lydia Aunt Lydia is the main Aunt at the center that teachers the handmaids. She also is the coordinator at the salvaging Offred attended. Offred often flashes back to quotes and situations that include Aunt Lydia. Luke Luke was Offred’s husband in pre-Gilead times. She never knows what happens to him after they were captured. Offred's Daughter Offred’s daughter’s name is never mentioned in the story, but Offred often reflects on memories with her. Later in the story it is revealed from a photograph that her daughter was taken in by a Wife and Commander. Offred's Mother Offred’s mother is very outspoken and could be considered a radical. Once the original government was destroyed she was put in the colonies. Cora Cora is one of the Marthas who really wants Offred to have a child, so that she can take care of it. Rita Rita is also a Martha, but she is not as friendly as Cora. Ofglen Another Handmaid who is Offred’s shopping partner and a member of the subversive “Mayday” underground. At the end of the novel, Ofglen is found out, and she hangs herself rather than face torture and reveal the names of her co-conspirators. Janine Janine does anything for the new Gilead regime. Offred meets Janine at the Center. Janine also becomes a valued Handmaid by becoming pregnant, but her baby had problems and was labeled an “unbaby.” Professor Pieixoto Professor Pieixoto is the guest speaker at the symposium that takes place in the epilogue to The Handmaid's Tale. He and another professor, working at a university in the year 2195, transcribed Offred's recorded narrative; his lecture details the historical significance of the story that we have just read. Aunt Elizabeth Aunt Elizabeth is one of the Aunts that works with the Handmaids alongside Aunt Lydia. She is also the Aunt that Moira uses to escape by putting on her clothes, then tying and leaving her in the furnace room. Historical Context Margaret Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale in the 1980's, a time in history that was known for social conservatism in many North American countries, namely the United States. Ronald Regan reversed many social policies in the U.S. and sought a return to conservatism and tradition. Many political groups became involved, as well. The Moral Majority, a political group that prided itself on Christian morals and tradition, advocated public prayer and government opposition to pornography and opposed abortion and The Equal Rights Amendment, which guarentees equality among men and women. This political movement was most likely the inspiration for the extremely conservative society depicted in "The Handmaid's Tale." Themes Using Womens' Bodies
Women are used in this novel to reproduce. They have no purpose in society except to keep the race alive. The are treated inhumanly and made to have no individuality.
Power of Language
The language in this novel is used to strip the citizens of Gilead of their individuality. Men are named by their military standing and women by their household job. The most severe case of this is seen with the handmaids, whose names have been taken away from them completley. They are named as a piece of property. The first syllable of their same being the word "of" and then the name of their Commander. For example, Offred is "of Fred" and Ofwarren is "of Warren." Feminists and other troublesome members of society, such as handicap children, are completly dehumanized when they are reffered to as Unwomen and Unbabies. Gilead also controls citizens by making them speak a certain way. If members of society do not use certain phrases and greetings approved by the government, they could be suspect for treason.
Motifs Rape and Sexual Violence
Gilead is supposed to be a safe place for women, free of sexual violence and any immorality. However, the society actually promotes the very thing it opposes. Every month during The Ceremony, Commanders are forced to rape their Handmaids and Jezabel's is a night club that provides the Commanders with prostitutes.
Religion for Political Purposes
In Gilead there is no seperation from state and religion. The theocracy uses religious terms and references to describe everything in its society. Symbols Harvard University
Harvard is no longer a place for learning and the pursuit of knowledge. Instead, the government has transformed the university into a place of oppression. Its lawns are used for hangings and its buildings for detention centers and prisons.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Some of the first setters in the United States were the Puritans, a strict religious group seeking freedom from religious persecution. When they settled in Massachusetts, the Puritans created a society much like that of Gilead. Religous rules and regulations played a key role in the governing of their society, they were intolerant of other religions, and women and men were not equal.
The Eyes
The Eyes are the watchdogs of Gilead. They are supposed to act as Gilead's god. In this society, it is assumed the eyes of God and the eyes of the government are the same.
Developing Action Climax Falling Action Resolution The Republic of Gilead is located in what was once Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America. The government is a theocracy, meaning there is no seperation between church and state. The government enforces religion on the citizens who live there. Before the government reformation, Offed was married and had a daughter. During the revolution, she and her family tried to escape. They were found out and Offred was taken to the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center in order to be taught Gilead docterine. Now, Offred is a handmaid in Gilead. Her job is to produce children for the Commander and his Wife. Her only other responsibility is to do the shopping. Each time she goes to the store, she is accompanied by another handmaid by the name of Ofglen. Ofglen is a member of the secret society Mayday that opposes the government. Every month, there is a ceremony in which Offred and the Commander are forced to have sex. One night, after the ceremony, the Commander asks Offred to come visit him in his office. They play Scrabble and reminisce about pre-Gilead society. This becomes routine. One night, the Commander takes Offred to Jezebel's, a night club. After her visit to Jezebel's, Offred goes shopping and learns that Ofglen has commited suiccide. She was found out by the government and decided to hang herself rather than be tortured. When she returns home, Offred is confronted by Serena Joy. Serena found out about Offred's trip to the night club. She tells Offred that she will be punished. Offred is waiting in her room when she see the black van pull up in front of the house. Nick comes to tell her that it is not the government in the black van, but Mayday in disguise. She is taken out of the house and put into the van. Though the reader never learns what becomes of Offred, it is known that her story was recorded on tape. In the year 2195 professors use Offred's tale to study the society of The Republic of Gilead. Conflict Offred is rebelling against the life she has been forced to take on as a handmaid in a society in which she has no identity or equality.
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