Feminist Issues in The Handmaid's Tale Essay

:: 3 Works Cited
Length: 1311 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Purple      
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Feminist Issues in The Handmaid's Tale

      The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood, can be classified as a distopic novel. The Republic of Gilead in The Handmaids Tale is characteristic of a distopia in that it is not intended as a prediction of the future of our society, but rather as a commentary on current social trends. Atwood has created this nation by isolating what she might consider the disturbing aspects of two diametrically opposed factions of our society (namely the religious right and radical feminism) as a theory as to what would happen if these ideals were taken to an extreme. Because she points out similarities in the thoughts and actions of the extreme religious right and certain parts of the feminist movement, some critics have labeled The Handmaid's Tale as anti-feminist. I would like to discuss the specific parts of the novel that lead to this opinion, and then discuss whether I believe this novel was intended as or can be seen as an attack on feminism.


     The issue of pornography is one of the most significant in the Republic of Gilead. Pornography has become illegal and is used as a generalized illustration of the many perceived societal problems before the theocracy gained power. While receiving training at the hands of the Aunts the handmaids are repeatedly shown violent pornographic videos to demonstrate how much better off women are in this time as opposed to previously. Offred's experience of watching these videos is intertwined with her memories of her mother and her participation in anti-pornography riots and magazine burnings.


     By placing these instances side by side Atwood shows that pornography is a point at which two extremes of society (here feminist and religio...

... middle of paper ...

...feminism. By taking this view we can see that Offred could be considered a feminist and that people involved in women's right's movements over changing times may come to represent completely different values than they did originally (which explains the occasional overlap of feminist and religious movements, assuming that religious ideals are static). Freedom from subjugation is at the heart of all feminist movements, regardless of what form they take.



Leavitt, JW, Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Moore, Pamela, Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale. Boston, MS: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

Wertz RW, Wertz DC, Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America. New York, NY: Free Press, 1977.


Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Feminism in "Top Girls" and "The Handmaid's Tale" Essay - Both Top Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale relate to contemporary political issues and feminism. Top Girls was written by Caryl Churchill, a political feminist playwright, as a response to Thatcher’s election as a first female British Prime Minister. Churchill was a British social feminist in opposition to Thatcherism. Top Girls was regarded as a unique play about the challenges working women face in the contemporary business world and society at large. Churchill once wrote: ‘Playwrights don’t give answers, they ask questions’, [6] and I think she is proving it in Top Girls: she brings up many tough questions over the course of the play, including what success is and if women’s progress in the w...   [tags: Feminism]
:: 10 Works Cited
1644 words
(4.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Handmaid’s Tale : A Product Of Debates Essay - The Handmaid’s Tale : A Product Of Debates Often times a reader finds that a character in a novel resembles the author’s friend or a distant relative. There is almost always some connection to the author, his surroundings, or events in his life. The Handmaid’s Tale reflects the life of Margaret Atwood on a much stronger level. It is a product of debates within the feminist movement of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Atwood has been much a part of that movement. The defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, the rise of the religious right, the election of Ronald Regan and many other historical events led writers like Atwood to fear the antifeminist movements....   [tags: Free Essay Writer] 842 words
(2.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Comparing Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Michael Radford's Film, 1984 - Margaret Atwood’s depiction of the future in The Handmaid's Tale is extremely bleak and forlorn; this oppressive atmosphere has been created by the development of an independent nation - Gilead - inside the U.S, which is governed by a totalitarian fundamentalist Christian sect. This dystopian text is the brainchild of a series of experimental social ideas which have given birth to a science-fiction novel, which satirises mainly the folly of human characteristics rather than the misuse of technology....   [tags: Compare/Contrast, Film Analysis, Movies] 1191 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Feminism Lost in Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale Essay example - In Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, the human spirit has evolved to such a point that it cannot be subdued by complacency. Atwood shows Gilead as an extremist state with strong religious connotations. We see the outcome of the reversal of women’s rights and a totalitarian government which is based on reproduction. Not only is the government oppressive, but we see the female roles support and enable the oppression of other female characters. “This is an open ended text,…conscious of the possibilities of deconstruction, reconstruction, and reinterpretation … Atwood engages in metafictional commentary …in her storytelling and by the time the reader arrives at the text, Atwood has already to...   [tags: The Handmaid’s Tale Essays]
:: 12 Works Cited
1523 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Handmaid's Tale Essay - In Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’, we hear a transcribed account of one womans posting ‘Offred’ in the Republic of Gilead. A society based around Biblical philosophies as a way to validate inhumane state practises. In a society of declining birth rates, fertile women are chosen to become Handmaids, walking incubators, whose role in life is to reproduce for barren wives of commanders. Older women, gay men, and barren Handmaids are sent to the colonies to clean toxic waste. Fear is power. Fear is ever-present in Gilead; it is implemented through violence and force....   [tags: The Handmaid's Tale Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
904 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on The Handmaid's Tale as a Warning to Society - The Handmaid's Tale as a Warning to Society Margaret Atwood's renowned science fiction novel, The Handmaid's Tale, was written in 1986 during the rise of the opposition to the feminist movement. Atwood, a Native American, was a vigorous supporter of this movement. The battle that existed between both sides of the women's rights issue inspired her to write this work. Because it was not clear just what the end result of the feminist movement would be, the author begins at the outset to prod her reader to consider where the story will end....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays] 934 words
(2.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Portents of the Monotheocracy in The Handmaid's Tale Essay - Portents of the Monotheocracy in The Handmaid's Tale        American society has had certain cultural and political forces which have proliferated over the past few decades-described as the return to traditional Christian values. Television commercials promoting family values followed by endorsements from specific denominations are on the rise. As the public has become more aware of a shift in the cultural and political climate through the mass media, Margaret Atwood, in writing The Handmaid's Tale, could have been similarly affected by this growing awareness of the public consciousness....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
:: 7 Works Cited
2420 words
(6.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on The Importance of the Narrator of The Handmaid's Tale - The Importance of the Narrator of The Handmaid's Tale The creation of Offred, the passive narrator of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, was intentional. The personality of the narrator in this novel is almost as important as the task bestowed upon her. Atwood chooses an average women, appreciative of past times, who lacks imagination and fervor, to contrast the typical feminist, represented in this novel by her mother and her best friend, Moira. Atwood is writing for a specific audience, though through careful examination, it can be determined that the intended audience is actually the mass population....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays] 998 words
(2.9 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Handmaid's Tale Essay - The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaids Tale, written by Margaret Attwood, goes on to explore the consequences that come to be from the reversal of womens rights in a society called Gilead. It is what one can consider a cautionary tale. In the new world of Gilead, a group of conservative religious extremists have taken power, and have turned the sexual revolution upside down. The society of Gilead is founded on what is to be considered a return to traditional values, gender roles and the subjugation of women by men, and the Bible is used as the guiding principle....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
1987 words
(5.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
A Handmaid's Tale Essay - A Handmaid's Tale A new society is created by a group of people who strengthen and maintain their power by any means necessary including torture and death. Margaret Atwood's book, A Handmaid's Tale, can be compared to the morning after a bad fight within an abusive relationship. Being surrounded by rules that must be obeyed because of being afraid of the torture that will be received. There are no other choices because there is control over what is done, who you see and talk to, and has taken you far away from your family....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays] 1650 words
(4.7 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]