Handmaid's Tale Context of Production

  • Created by: Meg 123
  • Created on: 03-05-19 23:06
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  • Handmaids Tale A03
    • Harvard, Boston and East Coast Liberalism
      • Story is set where Boston used to be, there is an irony to setting the story here as Harvard represents the freedom to learn
        • However, in Handmaid's Tale the walls of Harvard have been turned into a symbol of fear and restriction.
        • In the past, Harvard University was once a Puritan Theological Seminary
          • This shows that improvements can be made to society over time but can revert right  back (possibly suggested by the Historical Notes?)
      • Boston is a very liberal city and encourages social diversity and is lenient on issues surrounding race, gender and abortion, this massively contradicts the values of Gilead.
    • Puritan Theocracies and Islamic Fundamentalist Regimes
      • In the 80s the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism was very prevalent in the news- was not as common in the news as it is today.
      • In Puritan societies, the function of a woman was to be a "child bearing machine." They believed heavily in  living the way that God created you.
        • The costumes of the Handmaid's were influenced by the Puritans.
          • In the 17th century, Puritan settlements in Mssachusets were theocracies. They used biblical teachings to enforce stringent rules upon society.
          • Some women were persecuted as witches at this time.
            • The Handmaid's Tale is dedicated to Mary Webster: Atwood's ancestor who flouted laws of the Puritan Settlement and survived being hanged as a witch.
            • The Handmaid's Costumes were also based on Western religious iconography:
              • Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary
              • Handmaid's wear red, from the blood of parturition but also from Mary Magdalene.
                • Parturition = childbirth
        • American society is founded, to some extent, on these strict Protestant beliefs and Atwood uses these historical precedents to suggest that they could revert back to this extreme way of thinking/acting.
      • Atwood herself visited Afghanistan in 1978
      • "The Death of a Princess," was a 1980 British Drama Documentary, It is based on the story of a young Saudi Arabian Princess and her lover who had been publicly executed for adlutary.
        • The princess has rejected the husband chosen for her by her parents.
    • Worries about the environment
      • Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring," in 1962. This is an environmental science book about the adverse environmental effects caused by the overuse of pesticides.
      • "Friends of the Earth," formed in 1969." an organisation who campaign on issues such as climate change, pollution and nuclear technology
      • "GreenPeace" was formed in 1971 and is an environmental organisation.
    • The American New Right Movement
      • This is a coalition of conservative interests which sought to influence legislation regarding family and public morality issues such as abortion and homosexuality during the republican presidencies of Regan and Bush
      • Phyllis Schafly
        • Was an American writer and political activist who was a member of the New Right Movement
        • She was known for her opposition towards the Woman's Movement and the Equal Rights Amendment
        • She could be considered a hypocrite, as she preached the idea that women should fulfill the role of housekeepers whilst simultaneously forging a career for herself.
        • Was in part the basis for the character of Serena Joy.
    • WW2
      • Atwood was born in 1939 so experienced WW2 at a young age.
      • In an article written for "The New Yorker," in 2017 Atwood talks about how she "knew that established orders could vanish overnight." and that "Change could be as fast as lightening."
        • She also stated that "Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances."
    • The Berlin Wall
      • As she was writing the novel, Atwood was living in West Berlin which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall
      • In a 2017 article for The New Yorker, she discuses how she felt the wariness and the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changing of subject and the oblique way that people conveyed information.
    • The Lebensborn Program
      • This was an ** initiated, state-supported registered association in Nazi Germany
      • It had the goal of raising the birth rate of "Aryan," children of people classified "racially pure and healthy," based on Nazi racial health and hygiene ideology.
      • According to Atwood, "The control of women and babies has been a feature of every repressive regime on the planet."
        • Control of women and babies can be seen in Gilead, such as Handmaid's children being given to the Wives.
    • Argentine Generals
      • During the countries "Dirty War," from 1976-1983 Argentine military officers systematically stole babies from political prisoners and gave them new identities
      • This could be linked to Offred's child being taken from her at a young age and being raised by others, with Serena Joy knowing where she is the entire time.
      • Could also link to the children being taken from the Handmaid's and given to the Wives
    • "Literature of Witness
      • Atwood describes the story as "Literature of Witness."
      • This is a story or an account that a person writes in the hope that a future reader will find the story and learn from it
      • Handmaid's Tale could be considered "Literature of Witness," as Offred records her story as best as she can, then hides it. Trusting that it it may be discovered later by someone who is free to understand it and share it.
      • Some real life examples are: Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank


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