The Handmaid's Tale context

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  • Created on: 02-01-19 18:25
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  • The Handmaid's Tale- Context
    • Canadian Literature
      • Atwood believes humans are the agents of their own destinies and values rational, critical thinking over religious faith
    • 1980s Anti-Feminist Backlash
      • Phyllis Schafly- warns of radical femenism and saw liberation of women as posing a threat to 'traditional family values'
        • Serena Joy's past mirrors that of Phyllis Shafley- she encouraged the maintenance of traditional of gender roles, including women staying in the house.
          • Women are reduced to no more than vessels for carrying babies, house wives or servants, confined mostly to the home and unable to work- an extreme depiction of what 'anti- feminists'campaigned for
            • Aunt Lydia scorns feminists and calls women who had their tubes tied 'jezebels'- films of feminists are used to scare women at the red centre and 'demonise' the feminists
        • Atwood was very concerned about the growing counter attack against feminism by activists such as Schafly
        • Aunt Lydia scorns feminists and calls women who had their tubes tied 'jezebels'- films of feminists are used to scare women at the red centre and 'demonise' the feminists
    • Environmental concerns
      • There was an increasing public awareness of the manifold ways in which humanity was putting the planet at risk
        • Mass infertility is caused by air pollution and radiation from 'exploding power plants along the san andreas fault'
        • Nuclear power was used more regularly in the 1970s//80s causing concerns
        • 1979- 3'-mile' disaster- Nuclear reactor partially melted down- no health  effects on plant workers or public but after math brought about many more stringent safety procedures
        • Imminent threat of nuclear war
        • Concerns over rise of new technology
          • In Gilead, new technology  makes it possible to control everyone - cutting off bank accounts, using 'compuchecks'- neologisms
      • Nuclear issues
        • Chernobyl- 1986
        • U.S.dropped two nuclear bombs in 1940s- Hiroshimas- time to see generational affects
          • Mass infertility is caused by air pollution and radiation from 'exploding power plants along the san andreas fault'
    • Abortion-Debate- Pro-life/ pro-choice
      • Concerns about the 'over-sexualisation ' of culture- **** was more readily available and there were more reported cases of ****
      • Birthrates were falling  due to more available contraception and abortion and more women choosing careers over children
        • Aut Lydia criticizes women who chose not to have children when they could. The rapid fall of birthrates- due partly to more available contraception in the time before is the cause of  reason for the abusive usage of he handmaids
      • Abortion is outlawed in GIlead due to dramtically low birth rates and high levels of 'defects' in babies- doctors are hanged for carrying out abortions in time before GIlead
    • The New Right
      • Late 20th Century - Coalition of America conservatives that collectively led the 'conservative/ republican ascendancy.
      • Voiced opposition on a variety of issues including ...
        • Abortion- In chapter 6 Offred sees doctor's body's hanging on the wall- killed for carrying out abortions in time before GIlead
        • Homsexuality - Chapter 8 - ttwo men are hung on the wall for 'gender treachery'
        • The Equal Rights Amendment - aimed to invalidate many state and federal laws that discriminated against women - central underlying principle was that sex should not determine the legal rights of men or  women
          • Women are dehumanised and objectified throughout handmaid's tale- not allowed to work (chapter 3/10/20) own property , go out alone, or talk to anyone without permission . Elderly/ ethnic minorities/  homosexuals/ other religions also face discrimination
          • deadline extension to 1982- three years before novel was published- not ratified by required majority of 38 states
        • Affirmative Action- began as a government remedy to the effects of long standing discrimination against minorities and consisted of  policies and procedures that gave social benefits to minorities and women
          • Women are dehumanised and objectified throughout handmaid's tale- not allowed to work (chapter 3/10/20) own property , go out alone, or talk to anyone without permission . Elderly/ ethnic minorities/  homosexuals/ other religions also face discrimination
      • Election of Ronald Reagan (1980) and Margarett Thatcher (1979)
    • Margaret Atwood
      • Atwood travelled in the middle east to the theocratic states- lead to a concern about how religion was being used as a justification for abhorrent things
        • She couldn't believe everyone's passivity concerning this issue.
          • Explores this through Gilead as the people don't rebel due to small senses of freedom they are given e.g. Moira's escape. Offred is told 'it won't be hard for the next people'- it will become normal.
        • Gilead uses the bible to justify their actions e.g. Biblah-  hand maid used to bear Rachel's children- old testament- there are instances of the bible being changed to suit what Gilead wants e.g' 'blessed are the silent'
      • Criticises the idea of 'moral relativism'- e.g. When Pixeoto doesn't judge Gilead- in the epigraph Atwood says 'there is no sign in the desert that says you shall not eat stones'
    • Dystopian literature
      • Brave New World - Aldous Huxley- 1932
      • 1984- George Orwell- 1948
        • 20th Century 'tradition' in literature- presented restrictive and terrifying future societies
          • Brave New World - Aldous Huxley- 1932
          • The Handmaid's Tale was the first of these novels to consider a dystopian future from a female point of view
    • Second wave Feminism (1960s-1980s)
      • Broadened the range of issues addressed by feminism from first wave feminism (women's suffrage- voting/ owning property)
        • Women have lost all rights gained since 1970s- right to vote/ own property/ control over body etc.
          • Addressed sexuality, family, the workplace & reproductive rights and drew attention to the issues of domestic violence and marital ****, creates ****-crisis centers & women's shelters, & brought about changes in custody  and divorce law.
            • Offred's mother represents feminists within the novel- Offred remembers her attending protests- raised Offred by herself- expresses that having her was her choice and not for Offred's father- antithesis of Gileadean views
      • Addressed sexuality, family, the workplace & reproductive rights and drew attention to the issues of domestic violence and marital ****, creates ****-crisis centers & women's shelters, & brought about changes in custody  and divorce law.
        • Offred's mother represents feminists within the novel- Offred remembers her attending protests- raised Offred by herself- expresses that having her was her choice and not for Offred's father- antithesis of Gileadean views
    • The Sexual Revolution- 1960s- 1980s
      • Social movement criticizing the codes of behaviour related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the US and the wider world
        • Included increased acceptance of sex outside of marriage, and the normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, ****, premarital sex, homosexuality, and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion followed.
          • Opposed by the New Right
            • Late 20th Century - Coalition of America conservatives that collectively led the 'conservative/ republican ascendancy.
          • Aunt Lydia uses videos of pawn to scare the women at the red centre and present the world before as a sinful and overly sexual place endee by GIleadean regime

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