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Author Study: Margaret Atwood Curated by Samuel Yang '18

A LibGuide on the finest living Canadian novelist, poet, environmental & human rights activist

The Handmaid's Tale

The theme of gender inequality is most obvious in The Handmaid’s Tale, which is known as the most popular book of Margaret Atwood and the most powerful. When Houston Chronicle reviewed the book, they said, “The Handmaid’s Tale is an excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking . . . Read it while it's still allowed”. In a future society, a tyrannical sect rules the United States and uses religious imagery and quotations to support the oppression of women. In this state of toxic waste and nuclear radiation, few women can bear children. So those who can are enslaved to become handmaids, breeders of the country. Handmaids are told very little and are barely allowed to speak. They are giving only two opportunities to leave the house, which is to buy food for the family she stays at. Each handmaid will be paired with another handmaid to walk to the market side by side, and speak only in religious terms. For example, this is how a handmaid would great another: 

"Blessed be the fruit," she said to me, the accepted greeting among us. 

"May the lord open," I replied, the accepted response. 

Handmaids are limited to do only a number of things and while they are a ‘scare resource’ they are treated with despise. What better way to portray gender inequality of females than enslaving women in a tyrannical society?