The Handmaid’s Tale A dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood
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Have I edited my paper for the following? Trite phrases and repetitive word choice Revision of “to be” verbs Pronoun agreement (one ≠ they) Omission of vague pronouns/bland word choice, (such as “good”, “it”, “things” . . . ) Lack of noun usage after this, these, those Omission of first person “I”/ second person “you” Dangling modifiers and faulty parallel structure Proper usage and mechanics in documenting internal citations Correct format for MLA heading/title format
Turnitin.com submission • Due by Sunday, February 5th at 11:59 pm (to avoid 7-point deduction) • Password: Chaucer • Class ID#: 4783154
Final draft due: • Staple finalized Works Cited as last page of essay. • Highlight/underline and number each of your six uses of advanced syntactical techniques. • Highlight/underline your two (or more) internal citations per each support paragraph.
For tomorrow’s discussion: • Compose two thoughtful questions regarding Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. • Participation in tomorrow’s discussion will be graded as follows: 5 points for two submitted questions 5 points for participation in discussion (respond to one of your questions for 5 points if you are absent)
Sample Titles: MUST mention Gilead An Analysis of Misogynistic Practices Across the Globe and Within Gilead Gilead and Beyond: A Study of Totalitarian Rule and Its Tactics
Atwood’s Social Critiques of the 1980’s • International conservatism(Margaret Thatcher/the “Reagan Revolution”) • Religious fundamentalism (Jerry Falwell/Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker/ the “Moral Majority”) • Effects of pollution and nuclear waste(Pesticides/Chernobyl/effects of radiation) • Radical feminist movement(“Take Back the Night”/NOW/NARAL) • Pornography as “violence” against women • The Anti-abortion movement(“Operation Rescue”) • AIDS/ACT-UP
Quiz tomorrow • 10 points • Five questions • Three/four identification • At least one quotation
Dystopian literature • Dystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. • is considered an important commodity and has now been placed as a handmaid in the home of the Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy to bear a child for them. • Offred is a patronymic which describes her function: she is "Of Fred", i.e. she belongs to her Commander, Fred, as a concubine, a sexual slave. She is a chattel belonging to him, and so is given his name (see slave name). It is implied that her birth name is June. All of the women training to be handmaids recite their names, and all are later accounted for except June. In addition, one of the Aunts tells Offred to stop "mooning and June-ing." It may well be a pseudonym, as "Mayday" is the name of the Gilead resistance and could be an attempt on the protagonist's part to make something up; the Nunavit conference that takes place in the epilogue is held in June, as well.  • The only physical description of Offred presented in the novel is the one she gives of herself. Offred describes herself as: "I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair. I stand five seven without shoes." Notably, this description appears about halfway through the novel, so for a significant portion of the book the reader remains ignorant of her physical appearance. • The Commander • His background is never officially described as Offred does not have a chance to learn of his past, although he does volunteer, in one of their later meetings, that he is a sort of scientist and was previously involved in something like market research. Later, it is hypothesized, but not confirmed, that he might have been one of the architects of the republic and its laws. • Serena Joy • A former televangelist who seems loosely based on Anita Bryant, as well in parts Tammy Faye Bakker, and Phyllis Schlafly, she is now a Wife in the fundamentalist theocracy she helped to create. She is neither serene nor joyful; all power and public recognition have been taken away from her by the state, as it has been for all women in Gilead. Being sterile, she also has to bear the indignity of having a Handmaid and being present every month as her husband has sex with the Handmaid at the Ceremony on her own bed. • Ofglen • A neighbour of Offred's and fellow handmaid, she has been partnered with Offred to do the shopping for the household each day, so that the Handmaids are never alone and police each others' behaviour. Ofglen is a member of the Mayday resistance, and gets Offred involved. In contrast to the relatively passive Offred, Ofglen is very daring, even leaping forward to knock out a spy who is to be tortured and killed in a "Particicution" (an event in which the handmaids are turned loose to kill a man accused of rape and infanticide) in order to save him the pain of a violent death. Ofglen later commits suicide before the government comes to take her away for being part of the resistance. • She is replaced as Offred's shopping partner by another handmaid, also named Ofglen, who does not seem to share the original Ofglen's feelings about Gilead, and warns Offred against retaining any similar sentiments. • Nick • The Commander's chauffeur, he lives above the garage. On Serena Joy's suggestion and arrangement, Offred starts a sexual relationship with him to try to increase her chances of getting pregnant and saving herself from becoming an Unwoman and being shipped off to the Colonies. Offred subsequently starts to develop real feelings for him, even going so far as to tell him her pre-Gilead name, a revealing act of trust. Nick is an ambiguous character, and Offred does not know if he is a party loyalist or a member of the resistance, until near the end of the story and her time in the Commander's household, when he proves himself to be a member of the resistance and arranges her escape. • Moira • Moira has been a close friend of Offred's since college, hinted in the book to be either Harvard University or Radcliffe College. She is a rebel and a lesbian. Moira is taken to be a Handmaid shortly after Offred, but both women end up at the Rachel and Leah Center at the same time. While at the Center, Moira manages to escape, while the more passive Offred declines. The narrator tells of her escape, in which Moira steals an Aunt's clothes and leaves the Center wearing them. Offred then loses track of her for several years but encounters her at Jezebel's, the party-run brothel. Moira has been caught and offered the choice between being sent to the colonies and prostitution. She is grimly practical about her life of having sex with party leaders: once her "snatch wears out", she will be declared an Unwoman and sent to the colonies, perhaps to clean up toxic waste or work in agriculture. • Moira could be a figment of Offred's imagination used as an escape hatch when her thoughts become too dark and sad. She thinks of Moira after her mind lingers on something unpleasant for too long, she moves quickly to think about what Moira would have done in that situation to oppose Gilead. Offred loses her mental escape she had found in Moira after she experienced Jezebel's and realizes that the main reasons that the new society was created were still in practice. She loses the little faith she had in the society and she loses her will. After this point Moira is never mentioned again. • Luke • Luke was the narrator's husband prior to the formation of the Republic. She started seeing him secretly while he was still married; he then divorced in order to marry her. Luke, the narrator, and their daughter try to escape to Canada, but are captured. She constantly expects to see him hanged at The Wall but never sees him there and never learns his fate. • Categories of people • People are segregated into categories and dressed according to their social functions. White women seem to be the default in Gilead. The main non-white ethnic group mentioned are Blacks, who are called the Children of Ham; Jews are called Sons of Jacob, which is also the name of the fundamentalist group which rules the Republic of Gilead. The Jews were offered a choice of converting to Christianity or emigrating to Israel. Most chose to leave, but in the epilogue the lecturer mentions that many were simply dumped into the sea on the way over in boats, as a result of privatization of the "repatriation program," in order to maximize private profits. It is an underpinning assumption of the book that the reproductive value of white women is privileged over that of others. The sexes are strictly divided. Women are categorised “hierarchically according to class status and reproductive capacity” as well as “metonymically colour-coded according to their function and their labour” . The Commander makes it clear that women are considered intellectually and emotionally inferior. Women are not permitted to read and girls are not educated. • The complex sumptuary laws serve to distinguish people by sex, occupation, and caste. Women are especially visually segregated; men are too, but they are equipped with military or paramilitary uniforms, constraining but also empowering them. All classes of men and women are defined by the colours they wear (as in Aldous Huxley's dystopia Brave New World), drawing on color symbolism and psychology. All lower status individuals are regulated by this dress code. All non-persons banished to the colonies, men or women, wear grey clothing. Only rare civilians (increasingly persecuted) and Commanders seem to be free of sumptuary restrictions. • Men • Men have their particular roles and duties to carry out: • Commanders of the Faithful - the ruling class. Because of their status, they are entitled to establish a patriarchal household, with a Wife, a Handmaid if necessary, Marthas (servants) and Guardians. They have a duty to procreate but many are possibly infertile, as a possible result of exposure to a biological agent in pre-Gilead times. It is unlawful to mention that men can be infertile, however. They wear black to signify superiority. They are allowed cars. • Eyes - the internal intelligence agency who attempt to root out those violating the rules of Gilead. • Angels - soldiers who fight in the wars in order to expand and protect the country's borders. Angels may be permitted to marry. • Guardians of the Faith - "They're used for routine policing and other menial functions." They are unsuitable for other work in the republic being "stupid or older or disabled or very young, apart from the ones that are Eyes incognito" (chapter 4). Young Guardians may be promoted to Angels when they come of age. They wear lime green uniforms. • Males who engage in homosexuality or related acts are declared "Gender Traitors", and either executed or sent to the Colonies to die a slow death. • Women • Seven legitimate categories and two illegitimate ones are described. • Wives are at the top social level permitted to women. They are married to the higher ranking functionaries. Wives always wear blue dresses, as, presumably, did the Virgin Mary. After the death of her husband, a Wife becomes a Widow, and must dress in black. • Daughters are the natural or adopted children of the ruling class. They wear white until marriage. The narrator's daughter has been adopted by an infertile Wife and Commander. • Handmaids are fertile women whose social function is to bear children for the Wives. They dress in a red habit with a white head-dress that obscures their peripheral vision, both to keep them from seeing the world around them and to prevent their being seen and possibly tempting men. Handmaids are produced by reeducating fertile women who have broken the gender and social laws. Owing to the need for fertile Handmaids, Gilead gradually increased the number of gender-crimes. The Republic of Gilead justifies the nature of the handmaids through the biblical stories of Jacob's wives (Gen. 30:1-2) and Abraham (Gen. 16:1-6). • Aunts train and monitor the Handmaids. The Aunts attempt to promote the role of the Handmaid as an honorable one and seek to legitimize it by removing any association with gender criminality. They do the dirty work of the men running Gilead—being an aunt is the only way these unmarried, infertile, often older women may have any autonomy. It is also the only way to avoid going to the "colonies" for such women. Aunts dress in brown. They are also the only class of women permitted to read. • Marthas are older infertile women whose compliant nature and domestic skills recommend them to a life of domestic servitude. They dress in green smocks. The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus visits Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha; Mary listens to Jesus while Martha is preoccupied "by all the preparations that had to be made." • Econowives are women who have married relatively low-ranking men, meaning any man who does not belong to the ruling elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: domestic duties, companionship, child-bearing. Their dress is multicoloured red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles. • The division of labor between women engenders some resentment between categories. Marthas, Wives and Econowives perceive Handmaids as sluttish, and Econowives resent their freedom from domestic work. The narrator mourns that none of the various groups are able to empathize with the others; women are taught to hate and fear other women. • Outside of mainstream society exist two further classes of women. • Unwomen are sterile women, widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women -- all women who are incapable of social integration within the Republic's strict gender divisions. They are exiled to "the colonies", areas of both agricultural production and deadly pollution, as are handmaids who fail to produce a child after three two-year assignments. • Jezebels are prostitutes and entertainers, available only to the Commanders and their guests; some are lesbians and attractive, educated women unable to adjust to handmaid status. They have been sterilized, which is illegal for other women. They operate in unofficially state-sanctioned brothels, and they seem to exist unbeknowst to most other women - at least those in society. Jezebels, whose title comes from the Biblical character, dress in the remnants of sexualized costumes from "the time before" viz. cheerleaders' costumes, school uniforms, and Playboy Bunny costumes. While Jezebels have some degree of freedom in that they can wear make up, drink and socialize with men, they are still tightly controlled by Aunts. Once their usefulness for sex is over, they are also sent to the Colonies. • Babies • Unbabies, also known as "shredders," are babies that are born either physically deformed or with some other birth defect. They are quickly disposed of; Offred does not know exactly how, and she comments that she does not wish to know. Having an Unbaby is a constant fear among pregnant Handmaids, as they do not know whether they are carrying one until after birth. Defects have become increasingly common, probably as a result of the cause or causes that have rendered many people infertile. • Keepers are babies that are born alive with no defects. • Themes • Dystopia • Dystopian literature investigates how the human impulse to create utopia (a perfect world) goes awry when it meets the power to make such a place a reality. In The Handmaid's Tale, those who establish Gilead do so through the use of emergency laws, para-military organizations, surprise, and relative disinterest on the part of the populace. Having enacted a theocratic fascist state, the novel chronicles the ways in which the state was effective only in doing injury, not in transforming individuals to higher-minded ideals. • Sex for reproduction only, not pleasure • Human sexuality in Gilead is regulated by the notion that sex is fundamentally degrading to women. Men are understood to desire sexual pleasure constantly but are obliged to abstain from all but marital sex for religio-social reasons. The social regulations are enforced by law, with corporal punishment inflicted for lesser offences and capital punishment for greater ones. • "The Ceremony" is a non-marital sexual act sanctioned solely for the purpose of reproduction based on a Biblical passage described below. The Gileadan enactment has the Handmaid lying supine upon the Wife during the sex act itself. The handmaid is to lie between the Wife's legs as if they are one person. In this way, the Wife has to invite the Handmaid to share her power by inviting her to lie in her own personal space, which is considered both humiliating and offensive by many wives, Serena Joy in particular. Offred describes the ceremony: • "My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for." • Once a Handmaid is pregnant, she is venerated by her peers and the Wives. After the baby is born, if it is not an "unbaby" or a "shredder," it is given to the Wife of her Commander, and she is reassigned to another household although she has the guarantee that she will never be declared an unwoman. • Pre-Gileadian society • The novel indicates that pre-Gileadian society was not great for women. This society was a late 20th century version of the United States as Atwood envisioned it developing at the time of its writing (1985). In this society, women feared physical and sexual violence, and despite long-running feminist campaigns (approximately 1970–2000 within the text), they had not achieved equality. Feminist campaigners like Offred's mother and Moira were persecuted by the state. Radical feminism had teamed up with social conservativism in campaigns against pornography. In addition, mass commercialization had reached a nadir of "fast-food" and "home delivery" sexuality. Women outside of prostitution in "the former times" were subject to a socially constructed vision of romantic love that encouraged serial monogamy in favour of men's social and sexual interests. • In pre-Gileadean society, despite holding a university degree, Offred was a menial white collar worker whose colleagues were all women, with a male boss. Aside from having had to cope with oppressive cultural and social phenomena, women lacked full and meaningful control over their economic lives. • The book also hints that the birth rate was in decline due to unspecified circumstances prior to the revolution by noting that the Center where Moira and Offred were kept was a high school that had been closed sometime in the mid-1980s due to a lack of students. • In the novel, women are depicted as the property of men in both societies, in the United States as private property and in Gilead as social property. • The novel is set in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Atwood studied at Radcliffe College, and many locations in the novel are recognizable. Victims of "Salvagings" (public executions) are hanged on the wall of Harvard Yard; Fred's home is on the famous "Professor's Row"; and the Brattle Theatre, Memorial Hall and Widener Library make very prominent cameos. • Biblical references • Some of the underpinnings of the Republic of Gilead come from the Bible, especially the Book of Genesis. The primary reference is to the story of Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:31–35; 30:1–24). Leah, Rachel's sister and the first wife of Jacob, was fertile and was blessed by God, but Rachel, Jacob's second wife, was thought to be barren, i.e. infertile, until much later in her life. Rachel and Leah compete in bearing sons for their husband by using their handmaids as properties and taking immediate possession of the children they produce. In the context of Atwood's book, the story is one of female competition, jealousy, and reproductive cruelty. • Another story in Genesis concerns the infertile Sarah and Hagar, who conceives on her behalf. This story is different from the previous one, mainly because of the active role played by Hagar, who keeps her own child, and Sarah's fertility, which is restored by God at an advanced age. Atwood was aware of the similarity between these stories, and was using it to show the hypocrisy of Gileadean interpretation: this Biblical story shows a relationship between a wife and a handmaid which did not involve sexual and reproductive subjugation. Additionally, it was ultimately the choice of the wives in the Bible, whereas Wives in Gilead (such as Serena Joy) are forced. • The name "Gilead" is also from Genesis and means "hill of testimony" or "mount of witness". • Key phrases • Atwood takes pains to emphasize the effect of changing context on behaviours and attitudes. A key phrase "context is all" (1996, pg.154, 202) is repeated throughout the novel. The Scrabble game, for example, illustrates her point, since Offred describes it as once "the game of old men and women" but now forbidden and therefore "desirable" (1996, pg.149). Offred also perceives the world differently in a society that is morally rigid. Revealing clothes and make-up were part of her former life; yet, when she encounters some Japanese tourists wearing these, she is intrigued by her feeling that they are inappropriately dressed. • Social critique • The Handmaid's Tale comprises a number of social critiques. Atwood sought to demonstrate that extremist views might result in fundamentalist totalitarianism. The novel presents a dystopian vision of life in the United States in the period projecting forward from the time of the writing (1985), covering the backlash against feminism. This critique is most clearly seen in both Offred's memories of the slow social transformation towards theocratic fascism and in the ideology of the Aunts. • Immediately following the overthrow of the government, but before the new order had completely changed things, women begin to lose whatever freedoms they had previously had. Offred describes the loss of her own bank account as it is transferred to her husband's control, and then the loss of her job, before she, her husband and her daughter attempt to flee. An "Aunt" describes women's rights prior to the overthrow as "freedom to" (i.e., women having the freedom to do as they pleased), while the time after is described as "freedom from" (i.e., women having the freedom from difficulties, responsibilities, and fear). • In the chapter "Soul Scrolls", Offred reflects on what happened. "I guess that's how they did it," she thinks to herself, regarding electronic banking. It allowed the government to freeze women's bank accounts once the fundamentalist Sons of Jacob had taken power by assassinating the President and all of Congress, blaming it on Muslim terrorists. A state of emergency was declared and the Constitution suspended by the army, run by Sons of Jacob members. Mass pornography burnings took place, such as in the "Manhattan cleanup". Women are decreed unable to work, their bank accounts transferred into their husbands' or male relatives' control, and the Sons of Jacob set up a Christian fundamentaliststate church, which causes rebellion by Catholics, Baptists, and other denominations, who reject it. The backdrop was "The Big One" in California, which caused radioactive waste spills and produced "R-Strain Syphilis" that, along with AIDS, caused widespread infertility. This is alternate history wherein a far-right messianic Christian movement forms in the government and military, who make a pact with the USSR to deal with rebellions occurring in their spheres of influence. The latter was explained at the end of the book in a future historical lecture on the Republic of Gilead, which had long-since disappeared. • Atwood mocks those who talk of "traditional values" and suggest that women should return to being housewives (see Barefoot and pregnant). Serena Joy, formerly a television preacher with a high public profile, has been forced to give up her career and is clearly not content. The religious and social ideology she has spent her entire long career publicly promoting has, in the end, destroyed her own life and happiness. • However, Atwood also offers a critique of contemporary feminism. By working against pornography, feminists in the early 1980s opened themselves up to criticism that they favoured censorship. Anti-pornography feminist activists such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon made alliances with the religious right, despite the warnings of sex-positive feminists. Atwood warns that the consequences of such an alliance may end up empowering feminists' worst enemies. She also suggests, through descriptions of the narrator's feminist mother burning books, that contemporary feminism was becoming overly rigid and adopting the same tactics as the religious right. • Most notably, Atwood critiques modern religious movements, specifically fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, with a reference to Islamic fundamentalism such as the theocracy founded in Iran in 1979. An American religious revival in the mid-1970s had led to the growth of the religious right through televangelism. Jimmy Carter, then president, had avowed his renewed and reaffirmed Christianity; Ronald Reagan was elected as his successor using a specifically Christian discourse. • Atwood pictures revivalism as counter-revolutionary, opposed to the revolutionary doctrine espoused by Offred's mother and Moira, which sought to break down gender categories. A Marxist reading of fascism explains it as the backlash of the right after a failed revolution. Atwood explores this Marxist reading and translates its analysis into the structure of a religious and gender revolution. "From each according to her ability… to each according to his needs" (page 127) is a deliberate distortion of Marx's phrase, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" — the latter, an ideological statement on class and society; the former, a stance taken by Gileadian society towards gender roles. • Adaptations • A 1990 film adaptation was directed by Volker Schlöndorff, with the screenplay written by Harold Pinter. It starred Natasha Richardson (Offred), Faye Dunaway (Serena Joy), Robert Duvall (Fred), Aidan Quinn (Nick), and Elizabeth McGovern (Moira).MGM released the film on DVD in 2001. • There is also an operatic adaptation, written by Poul Ruders, which premièred in Copenhagen on March 6, 2000, and ran at the English National Opera in London in 2003. There is a full-cast dramatization, produced for BBC Radio 4 by the award-winning John Dryden in 2000. A straight stage adaptation by Brendon Burns was toured by the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, UK in 2002.
Characteristics of a Dystopia • Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society. • Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted. • A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society. • Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance. • Citizens have a fear of the outside world. • Citizens live in a dehumanized state. • The natural world is banished and distrusted. • Citizens conform to uniform expectations---including its own hierarchy, rituals and language. Individuality and dissent are considered bad. • The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world
The Dystopian Protagonist • often feels trapped and is struggling to escape. • questions the existing social and political systems. • believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives. • helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective.
Setting of novel • Cambridge, Massachusetts • Campus of Harvard of MIT • “The Wall” where “Gender Tratiors” are hanged
Atwood’s Republic of Gilead • The new country formed by a theocratic-organized military coup motivated by an ideologically-driven response to the pervasive ecological degradation of the land and widespread infertility. • Beginning with a staged terrorist attack killing the President and ousting Congress, the coup leaders launched a revolution which overthrew the United States government and abolished the US Constitution. • The new theocratic military dictatorship, called "The Republic of Gilead,” moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily-biblical regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly-created social classes.
Biblical References • Some of the underpinnings of the Republic of Gilead come from the Bible, especially the Book of Genesis. The primary reference is to the story of Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:31–35; 30:1–24). • The name “Gilead" is also from Genesis and means "hill of testimony" or "mount of witness.”
Rachel and Leah Re-training Center/ “The Red Center” • Leah, Rachel's sister and the first wife of Jacob, was fertile and was blessed by God; but Rachel, Jacob's second wife, was thought to be infertile until much later in her life. Rachel and Leah compete in bearing sons for their husband by using their handmaids as proxies and taking immediate possession of the children they produce. • In the context of Atwood's book, the story is one of female competition, jealousy, and reproductive cruelty.
Men in Gilead • "Commanders of the Faithful" - the ruling class. • "Eyes" - the internal intelligence agency who attempt to discover those violating the rules of Gilead. • "Angels" - soldiers who fight in the wars in order to expand and protect the country's borders. • "Guardians of the Faith" - soldiers "used for routine policing and other menial functions.” • "Gender Traitors" – Males who engage in homosexual or related acts are declared "Gender Traitors" and either executed or sent to the "Colonies" to die a slow death.
Women in Gilead • "Wives" are at the top social level permitted to women. They are married to the higher-ranking functionaries. Wives always wear blue dresses, presumably as a reference to the traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary. • “Handmaids" are fertile women whose social function is to bear children for the Wives. They dress in a red habit with a white head-dress that obscures their peripheral vision, both to keep them from seeing the world around them and to prevent their being seen and possibly tempting men. Handmaids are produced by re-educating fertile women who have broken the gender and social laws. Republic of Gilead justifies the nature of the handmaids through the biblical stories of Jacob's wives (Gen. 30:1-2) and Abraham (Gen. 16:1-6).
More Women in Gilead • "Aunts" train and monitor the Handmaids. The Aunts attempt to promote the role of the Handmaid as an honorable one and seek to legitimize it by removing any association with gender criminality. They do the dirty work of the men running Gilead—being an Aunt is the only way these unmarried, infertile, often older women may have any autonomy. It is also the only way to avoid going to the "colonies" for such women. Aunts dress in brown. They are also the only class of women permitted to read. • "Marthas" are older infertile women whose compliant nature and domestic skills recommend them to a life of domestic servitude. They dress in green smocks. The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus visits Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha; Mary listens to Jesus while Martha is preoccupied "by all the preparations that had to be made.” • "Econowives" are women who have married relatively low-ranking men, meaning any man who does not belong to the ruling elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: domestic duties, nursing, child-bearing. Their dress is multicolored red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles.
Illegitimate classes • “Unwomen" are sterile women, widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women, all women who are incapable of social integration within the Republic's strict gender divisions. They are exiled to "the colonies”---areas of both agricultural production and deadly pollution, as are handmaids who fail to produce a child after three two-year assignments. • "Jezebels" are prostitutes and entertainers, available only to the Commanders and their guests. They have been sterilized, which is illegal for other women. They operate in unofficially state-sanctioned brothels, and they seem to exist unbeknownst to most other women. Jezebels, whose title comes from the Biblical character, dress in the remnants of sexualized costumes from "the time before”: cheerleaders' costumes, school uniforms, and Playboy bunny costumes. While Jezebels have some degree of freedom in that they can wear makeup, drink alcohol, and socialize with men, they are still tightly controlled by Aunts.
Babies In this society, birth defects have become increasingly common. There are two main categories of human offspring: • "Unbabies”, also known as "shredders,” are babies that are born physically deformed or with some other birth defect. Having an Unbaby is a constant fear among pregnant Handmaids, as they do not know whether they are carrying one until after birth. In the Republic of Gilead, there is no need for amniocentesis, ultrasound, or other modern prenatal health detection techniques, since abortion is not a legal option and medical doctors were executed and their corpses displayed on The Wall for performing abortions in the pre-Gileadan era. • "Keepers" are babies that are born alive with no defects.
International conservatism • “The Reagan Revolution” • Popularlity was based upon removing governmental restrictions upon the economy, increased military spending to protect the U.S. from the Soviets, and removal of social programs aimed at the poor
Religious Fundamentalism • “The Moral Majority” of the 1980s, founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell, began to register voters in support of the group’s fundamentalist agenda, which included an anti-abortion platform, government opposition to pornography, and support of prayer in the public schools.
Effects of Pollution and Nuclear Waste • Three Mile Island
Atwood’s inspiration: • Chernobyl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHh3QaWKbSg&feature=player_detailpage • Anita Bryant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX6i5Y6t1nI&feature=player_detailpage • Pat Robertson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-CAcdta_8I&feature=player_detailpage • http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=f5TE99sAbwM
Classwork/discussion question: • Aunt Lydia says to the Handmaids-in-training, “We were a society dying of too much choice.” What does she mean by this statement? • Is there any validity to Aunt Lydia’s statement in today’s society?
Congratulations Winners! Macbeth Playbill Contest First place: Hannah Volpe, Abby Delserone, Laura McCarthy Second Place: Dan Merrell, Emily Johns, Katie Best, Breanne Melius Third Place: Erin Funderlich, Julie Arnold, Tara Manesh
Congratulations Winners! Macbeth Poem Contest First place: Wendy Jiang, NadeeraSidique, Christine Seol, Jacquelyn Palguta Second Place: Dan Merrell, Emily Johns, Katie Best, Breanne Melius Third Place: Alex Zagorski, Megan Zuley, Ryan Thornton
Group discussion/presentation • Use your assigned question to collaboratively locate textual evidence and to discuss all aspects. • Once you have shared your insights/textual support with Mrs. Peters, get a computer (one per group please) and compile a short 3-5 slide presentation that articulates your response to your assigned question. • This will count as a classwork assignment.
Group #1 Discuss why Atwood set her novel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard and MIT. What does this setting add to the novel?
Group #2 Discuss the ways that language is used to brainwash members of Gilead. How does Gilead’s policing of language help to control the thoughts of its citizens?
Group #3 Each category of women in Gilead is resentful of the others. Locate these examples. Explain the reasons for this resentment and discuss its ultimate effect.
Group #4 In Gilead, a woman’s body entirely determines her role in society. Discuss the ways this is evident in both the novel and how this is (and is not) true today.
Group #5 As a member of the elite, is Serena Joy in power or out of power?
Group #6 Consider the way Offred was affected by her upbringing, both during her pre-Gilead life and during her life as a Handmaid.
REMINDER: Finish The Handmaid’s Tale for Tuesday. Tuesday’s quiz will be one response question for 10 points.