The Handmaid's Tale Questions and Answers

The Handmaid's Tale

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the state of Gilead is the former United States. We learn that the US became Gilead after an internal political coup by a group calling themselves the Sons of Jacob. This...

Latest answer posted September 24, 2020, 12:26 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

As with most elements of Handmaids' lives in Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, what happens after they give birth is grossly unfair. Soon after birth, the baby must be given over to the Handmaid's...

Latest answer posted December 8, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

There are several important themes in A Handmaid's Tale. These include the following: The objectification of women: women and women's bodies become property in Gilead, and Handmaids lose any...

Latest answer posted December 6, 2020, 11:59 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

In chapter 23, the Commander has summoned Offred to meet him in his study. Offred is afraid. She doesn't want to be caught because she knows that Serena won't be merciful in doling out punishment....

Latest answer posted December 8, 2020, 2:42 pm (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

Reading and writing are forbidden for the women of Gilead, as these activities might give them ideas, and in this misogynistic dystopia, that's the last thing that the men in charge want....

Latest answer posted May 14, 2021, 8:05 am (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what year this novel is set in, though we get enough clues to make an educated guess. We can see from the copyright page that the book received its copyright in...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2020, 6:04 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

When playing Scrabble with the Commander, Offred feels a sense of transgression since women are forbidden to read in Gilead society. She chooses to spell strange words that sound almost foreign,...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2020, 2:31 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

The Commander's motives are not entirely clear when he requires Offred to start meeting him in his office for Scrabble games. The entire novel is from Offred's perspective, so we have no real...

Latest answer posted January 14, 2020, 3:44 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

As a previous educator has noted, Margaret Attwood once said that, in writing The Handmaid’s Tale, she wanted to see what would happen when misogynistic attitudes are taken to their logical...

Latest answer posted June 19, 2020, 6:30 am (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

It is significant that Offred remembers the time before the creation of Gilead—time she spent with her husband and daughter—for a few reasons. First, she is able to compare her past life to her new...

Latest answer posted April 28, 2018, 10:10 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

The appending of the prefix “of” to handmaids' names is a practice that tells you everything you need to know about their status in the misogynist dystopian society of Gilead. “Of” indicates that a...

Latest answer posted December 9, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

The Wall that Offred passes on her way to the market dates back centuries. It links to religion because it is here that the state of Gilead hangs the bodies of people it considers to have violated...

Latest answer posted January 28, 2020, 2:00 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred has been summoned by the Commander to see him in his book-lined study. She's incredibly nervous at the thought of going because it's strictly forbidden for her to be alone with a Commander....

Latest answer posted December 8, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

In The Handmaid's Tale, the ladies in red have but one purpose: to provide children. Fertility is a problem in their society, and the women chosen to be handmaids are chosen because they are...

Latest answer posted March 12, 2020, 4:03 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

In the Republic of Gilead, there are secret police officers who monitor the activities of everyone living in the country. These members of the secret police force are called Eyes. They are also...

Latest answer posted August 30, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

"The Handmaid's Tale" is a feminist work by Margaret Atwood, who is famously liberal. But the book does contain a critique of feminism. In an interview with Randomhouse, Atwood states,...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2008, 10:02 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

This passage demonstrates an approach common to authoritarian regimes: the establishment of one universal ideological perspective to guide all of society's functions and infrastructure. By...

Latest answer posted March 19, 2020, 10:43 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

It is in chapter 5 that Offred and Ofglen run into the group of Japanese visitors. The purpose of this encounter seems to be to create a stark contrast—both for Offred and for us as readers—as to...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2020, 8:59 pm (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

Some of the most important settings in the novel are rooms in the Commander's house: Offred's bedroom, the sitting room in which the family meets prior to the Ceremony, and the bedroom in which the...

Latest answer posted June 9, 2018, 12:40 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Night represents freedom from society's rules and restrictions. Offred carries out her enforced duties as a handmaid when the sun is shining. However, at night Offred is alone in her bedroom, able...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2019, 3:15 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, is set in a dystopian future in which a Christianity-based totalitarian government known as the Republic of Gilead has replaced the United States as we...

Latest answer posted December 7, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred and Ofglen are both looking into a store called Soul Scrolls, where prayers are printed out and spoken aloud, and the paper then recycled, all by machine. These prayers are recited without...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2020, 4:17 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

"Blessed be the fruit" is a stock phrase said to and by handmaids in Gilead. "The fruit" are the babies that the handmaids are supposed to bear for their upper-class masters. Part of what formed...

Latest answer posted December 8, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

In The Handmaid's Tale, author Margaret Atwood writes that "Pen is envy," which is a pun on the well-known term “penis envy.” In the book, Atwood separates the word “penis” into two words, “pen"...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 2:22 pm (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

To answer this question, it is important to explain the context. The Commander had just asked Offred her perspective on Gilead. He does not give her a chance to respond; instead, he defends the...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2019, 6:42 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

The Wall, which Offred describes as hundreds of years old and made of brick, is where the state displays on hooks the hanged bodies of traitors. Religious traitors are among those Offred sees on...

Latest answer posted August 14, 2019, 11:58 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Tattoos are barred by some Christian and Jewish beliefs based on interpretations in the Books of Leviticus and Jeremiah in the Bible which represent them as self-mutilation. This was part of the...

Latest answer posted July 21, 2019, 1:33 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

The defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment for woman is a significant event of the decade prior to the publication of the novel which may have had a great influence on Atwood and her depiction of the...

Latest answer posted November 18, 2011, 4:09 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

In wordplay, an author takes advantage of the double meanings or ambiguities in words to create an extra layer of meaning. A first example of wordplay or punning occurs when Offred comments that...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 12:16 pm (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

The first of the three epigraphs comes from the book of Genesis in what Christians refer to as the Old Testament of the Bible: And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied...

Latest answer posted April 28, 2018, 9:19 am (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale centers on a theocratic dystopia in what was formerly New England. Its main character, the narrator Offred, is a "handmaid," or a woman who is able to...

Latest answer posted April 4, 2018, 6:22 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

At first, the relationship between Offred and her Commander, Fred, is just what it is supposed to be according to Gileadean law: they have no real contact or interaction with one another with the...

Latest answer posted May 22, 2020, 6:22 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

In one of the earliest passages of the novel, Offred describes her room and shows readers how her mind works while she is in it. She says, A bed. Single, mattress, medium-hard, covered with a...

Latest answer posted May 4, 2018, 1:08 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

At the end of the novel, in chapter forty-six, a black van appears to collect Offred, and Nick assures her that it and he are both part of Mayday, the resistance movement that opposes the Gileadean...

Latest answer posted May 17, 2020, 3:42 pm (UTC)

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The Handmaid's Tale

You can argue either way on this one. Offred does mention a couple times in the novel that the society that they have is all a result of a freakishly overdone attempt to respect women and give...

Latest answer posted September 12, 2010, 12:53 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

In The Handmaid's Tale, most of the older women would have been shipped to the Colonies because these older women would no longer be fertile. In the novel's Republic of Gilead, handmaids are women...

Latest answer posted December 8, 2015, 9:30 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

The short answer is yes, probably, the Commander is sterile. When Offred goes for her routine appointment at the gynecologist, he says as much to her and offers to get her pregnant himself. She is...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2019, 11:11 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Moira's failed attempt at escaping did not necessarily offer Offred hope that she can succeed where Moira failed. It reinforced her need to rebel by increasing her need to be an individual again;...

Latest answer posted May 12, 2020, 11:46 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

Specifically, in The Handmaid's Tale, Offred (the title character) is not supposed to read because totalitarian governments normally control all information that the commoners have access to....

Latest answer posted February 5, 2010, 3:33 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Part of answering this question depends upon how one wants to define "power." There is the kind of power Offred might have within the Republic of Gilead, a society that confers very little autonomy...

Latest answer posted December 14, 2018, 2:20 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

If one were to interpret The Handmaid's Tale from a Marxist perspective, one could draw a parallel between capitalists and the Protestant fundamentalist elders who run Gilead. For just as...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2019, 6:33 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Fear is a prime motivator in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale. The novel is set in near-future America, where a totalitarian government has taken power. The name for the specific sort of government...

Latest answer posted December 5, 2019, 3:03 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Gilead seems to be a downright miserable place for everyone involved. Even the ruling class shows signs of discontent and unhappiness. However, there is no evidence to suggest that men experience a...

Latest answer posted February 11, 2020, 12:54 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

The handmaids are trained to say "Under His Eye" when they part from each other, so it is meant as a form of "goodbye" or "see you later." It has a dual meaning. First, it means the handmaids are...

Latest answer posted December 9, 2020, 12:17 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

Essentially, what she means is that meaning is not intrinsic but is instead a product of social practices, especially in a totalitarian society such as Gilead. We can see this point illustrated by...

Latest answer posted April 5, 2019, 5:23 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred is referring to the fact that she is a handmaid and therefore it is her role in this new society to be a fertile womb for a commander's baby. In this distopian society, there is a huge...

Latest answer posted October 16, 2010, 9:59 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

The Baptists are one of many religious groups that are fighting against the regime in Gilead. While the specifics of why they are fighting are not explained, it’s not hard to see how the Baptists,...

Latest answer posted October 27, 2018, 2:04 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred embodies some qualities of a heroine. She slowly becomes more rebellious and wants to free herself from the oppressive regime of Gilead. We see the story through only her perspective, so we...

Latest answer posted May 15, 2018, 3:46 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Handmaid's Tale

The narrator of this novel is what is known as "unreliable" although not for the usual reasons one uses this term. Normally an unreliable narrator cannot be trusted to give the whole story because...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2011, 4:49 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Handmaid's Tale

The setting drives pretty much everything in this novel. The Handmaid's Tale is set in a time when extreme religious fundamentalists have taken over the US. They have even changed the name of the...

Latest answer posted December 6, 2009, 1:04 am (UTC)

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