The Handmaid's Tale Context

Iranian Revolution

  • 1979
  • In 2 years, the progressive, westernized country got turned into a theocracy with an extremist muslim dictator.
  • Women heavily opressed
  • Sharia law
  • Only 6 years before Handmaid's was written so very relevant at the time
  • This idea that no matter how much progress is made, it could all so easily be erased... why couldn't it happen in the USA?
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Environment

  • 3 Mile Island
  • 1979 so recent to writing
  • a huge nuclear explosion in Pennsylvania that heavily affected the environment
  • links in with the Colonies in the novel

For AO3:

  • nowadays global warming is a massive issue, with leaders like Trump denying its existence
  • could perhaps talk about Extinction Rebellion protests
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Religiosity

  • Puritans- Protestants against Catholicism, belliefs similar to Gileadean regime
  • Ceremony- read bible
  • Rachel and Leah Centre- link to biblical story of Rachel and Leah about surrogacy
  • Links with Iranian Revolution
  • Quakers - underground femaleroad
  • Gilead kills all with differing beliefs
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Feminism

  • Influenced by prevailent 2nd wave Feminism at the time
  • Theme of men laughing and belittling womens troubles- Piexoto
  • Atwood said she was simply writing exactly what she saw around her at the time, so it is social commentary on the way women were treated at the time
  • she was looking from the outside of the US in Canada
  • Rise of the Religious Right- Phyllis Schlaffley links to Serena Joy
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Clothing

  • Biblical clothing
  • red= promiscuity
  • The bonets- treated like horses with the wings, shows how theyre treated like animals who are told what to do with their bodies
  • Puritan imagery
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War

  • Vietnam war- agent orange causing deformities in babies for generations, still affecting generations to come nowadays, also causing infertility
  • The cold war- influenced novel in atomic bombs- the colonies
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Unbabies

  • Thalidomides- Women used thalidomide pill for morning sickness, created babies with deformed limbs
  • Agent orange- deformed babies for generations
  • both reflect this idea of chemicals affecting fertility and development
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President

  • JFK assassinated, Gilead formed through assassinating entire government.
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