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No.
3


 
Interesting,
Dark,
Dramatic

11 reviews

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

Published: 2007-07-05
Paperback : 0 pages
26 members reading this now
60 clubs reading this now
6 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 9 of 11 members
In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from ...
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Introduction

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. The novel begins with three epigraphs. What are their functions?

2. In Gilead, women are categorized as wives, handmaids, Marthas, or Aunts, but Moira refuses to fit into a niche. Offred says she was like an elevator with open sides who made them dizzy, she was their fantasy. Trace Moira's role throughout the tale to determine what she symbolizes.

3. Aunt Lydia, Janine, and Offred's mother also represent more than themselves. What do each of their characters connote? What do the style and color of their clothes symbolize?

4. At one level, The Handmaid's Tale is about the writing process. Atwood cleverly weaves this sub-plot into a major focus with remarks by Offred such as "Context is all," and "I've filled it out for her...," "I made that up," and "I wish this story were different." Does Offred's habit of talking about the process of storytelling make it easier or more difficult for you to suspend disbelief?

5. A palimpsest is a medieval parchment that scribes attempted to scrape clean and use again, though they were unable to obliterate all traces of the original. How does the new republic of Gilead's social order often resemble a palimpsest?

6. The commander in the novel says you can't cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instinct?

7. Why is the Bible under lock and key in Gilead?

8. Babies are referred to as "a keeper," "unbabies," "shredders." What other real or fictional worlds do these terms suggest?

9. Atwood's title brings to mind titles from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Why might Atwood have wanted you to make that connection?

10. What do you feel the historical notes at the book's end add to the reading of this novel? What does the book's last line mean to you?

Suggested by Members

How is this book relevant today with our current administration?
by Jewel148 (see profile) 02/07/17

The possessive forms of the names
Of-Fred vs Off-red
by FTessa (see profile) 02/05/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

AUTHOR Q & A

Q: Was there any special research involved in writing The Handmaid's Tale?

A: I clipped articles out of newspapers. I now have a large clippings file of stories supporting the contentions in the book. In other words, there isn't anything in the book not based on something that has already happened in history or in another country, or for which actual supporting documentation is not already available.

Q: It's hard to pin down a genre for this novel. Is it science fiction?

A: No, it certainly isn't science fiction. Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that. That isn't this book at all. The Handmaid's Tale is speculative fiction in the genre of Brave New World and 1984. 1984 was written not as science fiction but as an extrapolation of life in 1948. So, too, The Handmaid's Tale is a slight twist on the society we have now.

Q: You seem to see a role for the novel beyond entertainment.

A: I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this.

Q: The way the reader comes into The Handmaid's Tale is through a diary or a journal, memories rescued and viewed from a time in the future. The curtain is drawn back slowly. Why did you choose to write it that way?

A: What I've written is only the view of one woman who lives in that society. I reveal Gilead through the eyes of that one woman. It would be cheating to show the reader more than the character has access to. Her information is limited. In fact, her lack of information is part of the nightmare.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by kaz@bayfm.com.au (see profile) 09/14/17

 
by laura.bruce.19@gmail.com (see profile) 09/03/17

 
by mypuppylucy@comcast.net (see profile) 08/30/17

 
  "THE HANDMAIDEN TALE"by mgoewey (see profile) 08/30/17

Not a happy book and Atwood has a strange twist on life of the future

 
by paulie.anne@gmail.com (see profile) 08/26/17

 
by bethanylaurel.e@gmail.com (see profile) 07/29/17

This book is a fascinating study or gender politics and the devastating results of dogma taken to extremes. A must read for everyone.

 
by cassandratel@yahoo.com (see profile) 07/28/17

 
by JeanetteC (see profile) 07/18/17

 
by ladybug5 (see profile) 07/07/17

 
by Zebra215 (see profile) 07/01/17

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