Summary Of The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

Words: 1513
Pages: 7

‘What Feminist Critics Do’ raises “the question of whether men and women are essentially different because of biology, or are socially constructed as different,” which is, arguably the premise for Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and Atwood applies this method of thought through her novel. As the text closes Margaret Atwood addresses this question through her two narrators alongside her readers interpretation to display elements of feminist critical thinking.

When ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was published in 1985 feminism was becoming a more widespread and successful movement, with the ‘Married Women’s Property Acts’ being passed in the UK only three years beforehand. It also marked the growing acknowledgement of different strands
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“Offred’s character is the ambiguity in the conclusion of the novel itself… Here, Atwood seems to depart from the canonical dystopic novels.” (3) As the novel draws to a close the reader is left to decide the fate of Atwood’s protagonist, Offred, which is decided not only upon the reader's perception of the events of the novel, but also on the reader's general beliefs, ideas and understanding. Atwood uses this to her advantage during the Historical Notes section at the end of the novel. This section continues the theme of relying on the reader’s perception, but also introduces a secondary narrator who is in a similar position as the reader, not knowing whether Offred’s story is completely true, or which parts to believe. From the perspective of a feminist literary critic however, It can be argued that Atwood is now challenging the issues brought forward earlier in the novel. This isn’t completely uncommon as Atwood spends some time questioning the motivations of her feminist characters, including Offred's mother. This technique could be used to open a debate for the reader, when Offred ‘speaks’ with her mother. “Can you hear me? You wanted a women's culture. Well, now there is one.” an obvious display of the protagonists disdain for the ‘women’s culture’ that was forced upon her, but it also suggests a ‘be careful what you wish for’ attitude from Atwood herself. The …show more content…
It's arguable that, as a novel primarily exploring the ‘female language’ within a dystopian society, Atwood's use of feminist critical thinking is the premise for the text and a predominant theme throughout, Atwood also displays an understanding of alternate perspectives and disagreements with this method of critical thinking. The representation of a ‘female language’ in the ‘matriarchal society’ of Gilead is ultimately accessible to all audiences, regardless of their understanding of feminist literary theory. This is due to the interactive narrative developed by Atwood, an effect that allows readers to project their own opinions and contextual understanding onto the text and the eventual outcome. Although feminist critics may receive this story to general audiences and audiences of the time, it's evident that the themes and issues presented by Margaret Atwood are somewhat universal and timeless, and this is influenced and aided by her use of feminist critical