Comment on the dystopian elements in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. 

5 Answers

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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What really strikes me as distopian about the novel is that the leaders of Republic of Gilead have convinced the people that this new society is BETTER for women than the old society.  Here the women are assigned their role (wives, handmaids, marthas, etc.) and therefore they are supposed to be protected and made to feel important.  This is all designed to protect women from being raped or used by men.  If this was true, it would be great, but the whole novel hinges on the complete hypocricy of the leadership of Gilead especially as evidenced by the behavior of the Commander, who desparately wants the human connection denied to him and everyone else in this new regime.  The language may have changed and perhaps the motives are different, but women are being raped and used at a sickening rate in this novel.

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Another dystopian element in the novel is existence of the Colonies, the area on the outskirts of the Republic of Gilead in which women are put to death as punishment for some wrong-doing.  The Jezebels are also sent there after their “service” in the brothels is complete.  The presence of the Colonies, therefore, suggests that there is no value to women’s lives and that there is no belief in the possibility of redemption.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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This is definitely dystopian novel.  This novel, actually, depicts, in my opinion, a nightmarish society for women.  It is sadistic and oppressive and shocking, only some elements of the dystopian society depicted in this novel.  The most shocking part of this novel is how the women are treated.  The handmaids are treated as birthing vessels and are taken advantage of and abused.  

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I haven't read this book, but it sounds a lot like 1984...very controlled and less than perfect in almost every way.

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reidalot | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The Handmaid's Tale is an excellent example of dystopian literature. Opposite from utopia, a perfect world, dystopia presents the world in all its negative aspects. Thus, technological advances and war have left the Republic of Gilead in a  sorry state. The Handmaids are merely valued for their ovaries and must lie down while the wives witness their husbands' attempts to impregnate another woman. All human closeness is condemned. Women who were once wives and mothers must endure their roles as Handmaids. Religion is a business as the Soul Scrolls print out prayers. Knowledge and education are reserved for only a few. In this dystopian world, every person's waking moment is carefully monitored, "Under His Eye," and as Offred discovers, the van will come and take the disobedient away. In this world, humans are enslaved, punished, and tortured, allowed no love, light, or enjoyment - dystopia!