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Introduction and Overviews of The Handmaids Tale

Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, originally published in 1985. It is set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian state resembling a theonomy that overthrows the United States government.

The aim of this essay has been to show that language, “truth” and action, within the Foucauldian notion of discourse, are used to oppress women both in Gilead and in the society “before”. It is clear that when living in a society like Gilead one must adjust to the discourse of that society.

the handmaid's tale pdf summary

About the Author of The Handmaids Tale

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born on 18 November 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the second of the three children of scientist Carl Atwood and his wife Dorothy.

Atwood had an unusual childhood in which she often missed out on formal schooling in order to accompany her father, an entomologist (expert in insects), on his field trips and expeditions.

An early, voracious and advanced reader, she explored writing from within genres as diverse as comics, mystery stories and fairy tales. Not until almost the end of the Second World War did Atwood finally begin to live in more conventional city surroundings and to attend school regularly.

Having begun to write at the age of just six, she knew she wanted to make it her career even before she went to university.

the handmaid's tale pdf summary

Atwood has published some important works of literary criticism in which she describes Canadian literature as marked by the themes of survival and victimhood and theorises as to the impact and implications of these key themes on her mother country’s writing and culture. She has taught at many universities and been awarded honorary degrees by Oxford, Cambridge and the Sorbonne.

Her interest in how history and narrative can entwine and enrich one another can also be seen in some of the novels she has published since The Handmaid’s Tale, such as Alias Grace (1996) and The Blind Assassin (2000).

The Handmaids Tale Book Information

Book Name : The Handmaids Tale
Author : Margaret Atwood
Country : Canada
Language : English
First Print Esition :
ISBN : 0-7710-0813-9
Number of Page : 311

Summary and Analysis of The Handmaids Tale: Based on the Book by Margaret Atwood

Plot Summary

There are some aspects which are, of course, standard in any book of witchcraft, but Plaisance has a touch for explaining things in a conciseand easy-to-understand format. The world will be a better place.

Charlotte searches frantically, but finds the infant Charlotte has named Rose being cared for by Catherine Jones, a strange woman with a marked scar on her face. Once you know more the book takes on even more depth.

When Margaret Atwood began writing The Handmaid’s Tale, a work she calls speculative fiction, in the Spring of 1984, she had no idea the novel would sell millions of copies worldwide, would be awarded several prestigious academic awards, and would not go out of print from the day it was first published in 1985. She also had never anticipated it would cause such an uproar, being banned from high schools and being widely discussed in blogs on the internet (“Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale”1).

Moreover, women across the world actively engage in the discussion on the repression of women today, and the costumes worn by the handmaids have been noted to be used in marches and at Halloween for those who want to protest or revel, which are activities Atwood would not ever have thought would happen when she was
writing the novel.

The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of Offred, a woman who has been sent to live with the Commander and his wife to serve as their Handmaid in order to reproduce, even though she has a family of her own.

The story is set in the Republic of Gilead, a near-future state that has overthrown the United States government. The republic has been established by a totalitarian theocracy and the Commander is one of their high-ranked officials. The republic is suffering from a declining birth rate due to infertility from nuclear waste and sexual transmitted diseases, which only women are blamed for.

In an attempt to restore order, women have been deprived of their rights to any form of self-determination, and those who have been proven fertile are slowly taken to serve as handmaids among the highest class.

Those who are too old, or have not reproduced or proven to be able so, are sent off to the Republic’s Colonies. The lower ranked women are called Econowives and are awarded to soldiers who have shown their worth in battle.

The novel is written in a first-person narrative and is told by Offred – or June as she might possibly be called – who is serving as a Handmaid in the house of the Commander and his wife Serena Joy.

She was once married to Luke with whom she has a little girl. Her name now refers to her purpose as the Commander’s handmaid, ‘Of Fred’. After her rights are slowly taken away from her – she gets fired and her bank account is blocked – Offred and Luke make a run for the Canadian border to escape what is coming.

Even though everything is thoroughly planned out they are not able to escape their faith and Offred is taken to the Red Centre where she is trained – or brainwashed – to become a Handmaid. She does not hear from Luke again and only later finds out her little girl is taken in by another family.

At the Red Centre Offred is trained by the Aunts, older women whose only purpose it is to prepare handmaids for the life that is awaiting them; they have to perform a monthly Ceremony with their Commander, with the ultimate goal being reproduction.

When they are able to give birth to a healthy baby, they will be granted a life without any further obligations and be able to live peacefully. Their baby will be raised by a high-ranked official and his wife. The Aunts are higher-ranked than Handmaids or Econowives and firmly believe in the new order.

They rule the Red Centre with an iron fist and do not tolerate any form of contradiction. Here Offred meets
other women who have been taken by the new order, and we hear of Janine and her best friend Moira.

Janine later gets pregnant, but unfortunately gives birth to an Unbaby – or Shredder; a term used for babies that are suffering from a birth defect or physical deformation.

Moira, who has never believed in the new order, does not meet the Aunts’ rules and tries to run off on more than one occasion. When she finally succeeds, Offred does not hear from her until she is taken to a brothel by the Commander on one of their secret meetings.

Final Word For The Handmaids Tale

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