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The Handmaid's Tale

This study guide will help you analyze the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the text

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Novel

Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, and poet. She has published 18 novels, as well as many books of poetry, short stories, and non-fiction. Much of her work centers on themes of feminism, identity, and power. She is also interested in science fiction writing and dystopian settings.

She is best-known for her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which is set in the United States of America in a dystopian future where the country is controlled by a strict puritanical government. 

The book was turned into a popular television series in 2017, starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred. The adaptation was so successful that it was followed by three more series, going beyond the story told in the novel and developing it further beyond Atwood’s cliffhanger ending. The novel has also been adapted into an opera by composer Poul Ruders, which premiered in 1998. 

Extract 

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Symbols

The novel includes a number of symbols, which are used to convey the story’s themes and messages. For example, Offred repeatedly mentions the flowers in Serena Joy’s garden. Offred measures the passing of time by the flowers that bloom in the garden. She also sees the flowers as symbolic of how life bursts up through restraints and cannot be controlled: “There is something subversive about this garden of Serena’s, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.” (Chapter 25, 22%)...

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The Handmaid's Tale

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