Dystopias in Contemporary Literature Criticism: Dystopian Views In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985) - Essay

Karen F. Stein (essay date winter 1991-1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stein, Karen F. “Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: Scheherazade in Dystopia.” University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 2 (winter 1991-1992): 269-79.

[In the following essay, Stein suggests that Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale can be interpreted as a cautionary but hopeful dystopian vision of women's struggle to reclaim language from the patriarchy.]

Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale is narrated by a Scheherazade of the future, telling her story to save her life. But whereas the Sultan of the Arabian Nights asks for Scheherazade's stories, Atwood's handmaid is locked into silence; to tell her tale is to risk...

(The entire section is 4673 words.)

Lois Feuer (essay date winter 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Feuer, Lois. “The Calculus of Love and Nightmare: The Handmaid's Tale and the Dystopian Tradition.” Critique 38, no. 2 (winter 1997): 83-95.

[In the following essay, Feuer discusses ways in which Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale both partakes of and extends the dystopian genre, focusing on Atwood's questioning of certainty and truths in the novel.]

Reviewers of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale invariably hailed it as a “feminist 1984,1 and, like many handy tags, this one conceals a partial truth. A closer look, however, reveals not only the similarities between the two novels' totalitarian societies, but...

(The entire section is 6468 words.)

Jocelyn Harris (essay date 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Harris, Jocelyn. “The Handmaid's Tale as a Re-Visioning of 1984.” In Transformations of Utopia: Changing Views of the Perfect Society, edited by George Slusser, Paul Alkon, Roger Gaillard, and Danièle Chatelain, pp. 267-79. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1999.

[In the following essay, Harris examines parallels between Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, asserting that Atwood's novel is a critique of George Orwell's treatment of women in his works.]

By publishing The Handmaid's Tale in 1985, Margaret Atwood openly invited comparison between her own dystopian novel and George Orwell's...

(The entire section is 4816 words.)