Sir George Williams University
The Handmaid’s Tale’sDystopian and Feminist Ideals
Ms. Margaret Eleanor Atwood is an internationally celebrated novelist, literary critic, and poet. As a child, Atwood spent her time between Ontario, her family’s primary residence and sparsely settled bush country in northern Canada, where her father, an entomologist, conducted research. As a result of her father’s research Atwood spent most of her childhood in the woods of northern Quebec and traveled continuously between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Maire, and Toronto. She did not attend school full time until she was eight years old. Because of her upbringing, her works often have themes of the dangers of the ideologies of sexual politics, civilization vs. wilderness, and the inevitability of death.Although, Atwood embeds feminist ideals in her writing as she rallies to empower women, she also cautions her readers by writing dystopian works that touch upon the darkness that is present in humanity.
In 1957, while studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she began her professional career and published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. In 1961, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in philosophy and French. In 1961, she privately printed a book of poems, ‘Double of Persephone,’ and became the winner of the E.J. Pratt medal. In 1962, she obtained her master’s Harvard’s Radcliff in 1962 and pursued further degrees at Harvard University, but was unable to finish her dissertation.
Her first significant work was a book of poetry, ‘The Circle Game’ published in 1964, which was highly praised worldwide and honored in 1964. After that, she wrote numerous novel, screenplays, short stories, children books, and e-books. Atwood also had a distinguished career as a professor. She held positions at the University of British Columbia from 1964-1965, Sir George Williams University from 1967-1968, and York University from 1971-1972. Atwood continued writing some of her most celebrated novels including the Handmaid’s Tale, the Blind Assassin she continued writing some of her most celebrated novels including The Handmaid’s Tale, the Blind Assassin, The Penelopiad, Alias Grace, The Edible Woman and many more.
In her works, Atwood continually pits civilization against wilderness and society against savagery. She often considers these opposites to be some of the defining characteristics of Canadian society. By pitting civilization against the wilderness, she can create metaphors for the divisions between human personality. Society, civilization, and culture all represent the humanity of all humans while wilderness, irrational, carnal thoughts and actions all represent the savagery of our inner beings.
In one of her most famous novels, t The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the future where the United States has been replaced by a new Totalitarian state called the Republic of Gilead. Gilead rose to power because they wanted to put a stop to prostitution, porn and violence toward women. They also wanted to raise the declining fertility rates caused by pollution and chemical spills which lead to radiation sickness. The main character's main is Offred which isn't her real name, and she explains that no one is allowed to call her by her real name because it is forbidden. Offred is a Handmaid and her job is Gilead is to be assigned to married couples to bear their children. Offred is assigned to the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Every month, Offred is right at the part of her menstrual cycle she is forced to have impersonal worthless sex with the Commander. While this happens, Serena Joy sits in the room holding Offred's hands. The novel uses a series of Offred’s flashbacks to clarify what has happened prior to Gilead. We find out that she had an affair with a married man named Luke who she ends up marrying after he divorces his wife. After they marry they have a daughter together. We also find out that offred was raised by her mother who had been a feminist activist and that Offred had a best friend named Moira who was a rebellious who refuses to stand down against Gilead.
When the rebellion started there was a crackdown against women’s rights including having property, holding jobs, etc. Offred and Luke decided to run away with their daughter to Canada, but they were caught at the border and separated. After Offred is captured she is sent to the Rachel and Leah Reeducation where women are re-educated to become Handmaid’s. They are taught that they are nothing but property with the sole purpose of reproduction. Moira soon escapes leaving Offred alone. Offred is then assigned to the Commander’s wife where she is reduced to a repetitive and worthless life. She is only let out of the House to go shopping, but must be accompanied by another Handmaid named Ofglen.
One day the Commander tells his Chuffer to let Offred know to meet him in the study secretly. After that, Offred visits him regularly and he allows her to play Scrabble and read vogue which is forbidden.After some time passes she does not get pregnant, Serena Joy offers Offred to have sex with Nick because the Commander might be infertile.