The Handmaid's Tale Context

View mindmap
  • The Handmaid's Tale Context
    • Feminism
      • Bases some aspects of the novel on the second wave feminist movement of the 1960s and the backlash it received. E.G Offred's mother was apart of the movement as she is a single parent and belongs to an activist group that campaigns for sexual freedom and pro-choice while the aunts and commander's wife represent the Christian opporsition
      • The feminist movement gained strength in the US winning Congressional endorsement for equal rights in 1972 and the supreme court decision to make abortion legal in 1973.But opposition campaigns meant that that the equal rights amendment was ratified in 1982.
      • Heroines of second wave feminism include Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan who focused their work on women's bodies, female sexuality and issues with motherhood,
    • Religion
      • Her interest in Puritanism comes from her ancestry as Atwood is a descendant of Mary Webster who was tried for witchcraft (see epigraph)
      • Gilead uses aspects of Puritanism like women being the inferior sex, strict religious values and plainness. For example, women were given names like Prudence and Be Fruitful to remind them of their values.
      • The Republic of Gilead is named after a place in the Old Testament east of Jordan. The biblical Gilead is closely connected with the history of Jacob and prophet Jeremiah who was a Gileadite. Gilead is the ideal image of embattled state.
    • Dystopia
      • Takes place in the near future where the  American fundamentalist government Gilead took over.
      • The novel begins like George Orwell's 1984 as in both novels privacy, individuality and unorthodox beliefs are punishable.
      • Atwood began collecting ideas for her novel in 1981 and kept clippings and her concerns from the 80s were translated into the book
    • The American New Right
      • Atwood based characters like The Commander's wife televangelists such as Tammy Faye Bakker and Phyllis Schlafly who made speeches to support the right wing.
      • The New Right was popularized in the 1980s following the presidency of Reagan. This right wing Christian group expressed concerns over abortion, divorce and gay rights. They looked back at Puritanism and was politically powerful.
      • It was popular within 'Bible Belt' America where church attendance was high.


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all The Handmaid's Tale resources »