The Handmaid's Tale Themes

Topics: Novels

There are many themes and issues which take place in The Handmaid’s Tale. All of these themes address the way in which society may be in the future. The meaning of dystopia is an un-perfect world. This plays a centre theme within The Handmaid’s Tale. Within the first chapters of the novel, Margaret Atwood illustrates a very strong sense of a negative society in which the handmaids are living in.

For example; in the opening chapter the place which they are standing in is almost described as a prison or an asylum because the windows are not made of glass, the pictures on the walls have no glass and the net within the basketball hoop has been taken out.

This gives the reader an initially instinct that their society is very hostile and intense. Also the women who are called the aunts are described to patrol the corridors with ‘electric cattle prods’. This tells us immediately that they handmaids are treated as animals and have a very un-human living.

Religion also plays a strong part in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Themes Of The Handmaids Tale

This is made apparent to the reader when a very rare dialogue appears with two girls about God. ‘Praise be, Praise be’. This is repeated very often throughout the conversation. This can tell us that there are very strong views on religion and all the girls must obide by them. This can suggest to us that the society is very totalitarian, in the sense that everyone must obey rules.

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The role of the handmaid’s at this stag is very vague however we do no that the role of the handmaids is to repopulate society so therefore the handmaids are made to reproduce and have children for other women who cant.

‘Where I am is not a prison but a privilege’. This shows us that the handmaids are thankful for there position in society rather then being classed as an ‘un-women’ who are the women that cannot have children. This therefore shows us that these girls are almost brainwashed into thinking that their society is right. I think Margaret Atwood has done this to voice her views on women in society and how men can easily overpower them. The rules, routines and restriction of Gilead, I think is the strongest issue within the first chapters.

This illustrates to the reader the extent of how much their future society is a dystopia. The rules are very strict; the handmaids are not allowed any communication between each other and certainly not men. Within the novel a lot of the restrictions for the handmaids is to avoid the temptations of physical attention however this is not just sexually but just normal human contact. For example; ‘and touched each others hands across open space’. This shows us the extent of how much they are restricted and almost treated like children who cant be trusted.

I think that this again reflects back to Atwoods views on women. This novel illustrates a very stereotypical picture on women and how they are only good for housekeeping and raising children. However this is very strange as this novel is written in the future. This therefore shows the reader that there has been a massive collapse in society and it has reverted backwards. This is very ironic as the novel is written in the future but displays behaviour as it were in the past. The Narrative technique of this novel is very simple.

It is written in the first person and in present tense throughout. The narrator of the novel is a handmaid who doesn’t have a name. This significant into again women are seen in society and because she does not own a name this shows us that she is not respected nor does she have an identity. Finally Atwood uses a lot of different techniques and language throughout her writing. Atwood uses a lot of rhetorical questions. The effect this has on the reader is to make the novel become more personal and almost as if it were a handmaids tale.

Atwood also uses subtle hints of humour in her writing. For example; ‘reds not my colour’. I think this is done for many reasons one being to show that the handmaids lives are not really that bad but another which reflects atwoods views more is to shows that however unhappy or controlled a women is they can still adapt and get on with life. Lastly Atwood has written this novel in complex context however I think this is to symbolise the way in which the handmaid’s feel.

Again this is to give the feel of a more personally written novel. Altogether within the first chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale, many themes and issues have taken strong influence on the readers concept. All of these factors help illustate the novel in a more diverse way. By Jodie Tuley Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.

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The Handmaid's Tale Themes. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

The Handmaid's Tale Themes
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