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Review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood set her novel The Handmaid’s Tale in Massachusetts due to its symbolic meaning. Throughout the novel, the evidence point to the Cambridge town as the center of Gilead’s power. In 17th century, Cambridge, Boston, and Massachusetts comprised the essence of the American society’s intolerance and fierce religiousness due to the fact that they were the center of the Puritan New England. Moreover, Atwood also hints at the Puritan heritage that Gilead bears, as Offred and Ofglen visit an old Puritan church that was turned into a museum. Atwood makes allusions to Puritans because they also were highly intolerant towards sexual, political, or religious deviation.

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Mass sterility in the country led to the rise of religious fanaticism, an armed coup and the establishment of a church dictatorship, which interprets scripture in the Old Testament key. Horan (2019) adds that “Gilead looks to ancient scriptures in a vain attempt to find solutions to ecological woes” (169). The suppression system sets the rules in which only one language is encouraged – the language of hate. The women of Gilead, among which is now Offred, eventually accept these rules. Before Gilead was established, the signs of a future humanitarian crisis reach them with echoes of disturbing news, small hints, sidelong glances, and random skirmishes. The signs go on and on, until it is too late.

This is a common human story, reminding that rights cannot be won once and for all, and progress is easy to reverse. “We are containers, it’s only the in-sides of our bodies that are important”, states Offred casually, in between lines (Atwood 1985, 84). Any ideals set in the Declaration of Independence can be renounced or transformed into something that will serve the new order, if the people will not stand for themselves and fight. Calvi et al. (2020) state that “dystopian novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale illuminate real-world human sociopolitical dynamics that underscore the processes of sexual and reproductive control at both the systemic and individual levels” (63). Atwood shows how easy it is to turn a progressive country where women’s rights are a priority into a dictatorship which reduces these rights to nothing.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. McClelland and Stewart, 1985.

Calvi, Jessica L., et al. “The nuanced psychology of The Handmaid’s Tale: Commentary on power, feminism, and the patriarchy from four feminist evolutionary psychologists.” Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, vol. 14, no. 1, 2020, pp. 63–78.

Horan, Thomas. “Ludic perversions and enduring communities in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.” Desire and Empathy in Twentieth-Century Dystopian Fiction, Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK, 2019, pp. 169–201.

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StudyCorgi. "Review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood." October 28, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/review-of-the-handmaids-tale-by-margaret-atwood/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood." October 28, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/review-of-the-handmaids-tale-by-margaret-atwood/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood'. 28 October.

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