The Handmaid's Tale Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale book cover
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What central message is The Handmaid's Tale conveying?

One could argue that the central message The Handmaid's Tale is conveying is that sexist attitudes have consequences. By taking sexist attitudes to their logical conclusion, Attwood shows just how dangerous they are and how much they dehumanize women.

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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 conclusion. Another way of putting it is to say that attitudes, however causally held, can have serious consequences, even if those consequences are wholly unintended. Among other things, they can distort how we see the world through a process of dehumanizing the Other.

This central message allows us to answer the question of how on earth a dystopian society such as Gilead could ever have been established in the first place. Over time, casually held attitudes of sexism and misogyny will have hardened into imperishable dogmas that formed the governing principles in this fundamentalist dictatorship.

Most of those men who held such attitudes would doubtless not have expected such a society to emerge. But it did, and it would not have come about had it not been for those attitudes. The fundamentalist...

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