The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood - New
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The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel, a work of science fiction or speculative fiction, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985. Set in the near future, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency. The novel was inspired by Geoffry Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1390), comprised of a series of connected stories ("The Merchant's Tale," "The Parson's Tale," etc.). The Handmaid's Tale won the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987, and it was nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. It has been adapted for the cinema, radio, opera, and stage.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically-driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country. Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launched a revolution, ousted Congress, and suspended the U.S. Constitution under the pretext of restoring order. Taking advantage of electronic banking, they were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other "undesirables" in the country, stripping their rights away. The new theocratic military dictatorship, styled "The Republic of Gilead", moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily-Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly-created social classes. The story is presented from the point of view of a woman called Offred (a patronymic name that means "Of Fred", referring to the man she serves). The character is one of a class of individuals kept as concubines ("handmaids") for reproductive purposes by the ruling class. The book follows Offred's life from the beginnings of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her indoctrination into the life of a handmaid, to her new assignment as handmaid to Fred, (referred to as "The Commander"). Through her eyes, the structure of Gilead's society is described, including the several different categories of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy. The Commander, a high ranking official in Gilead, exposes Offred to many hidden or contraband aspects of the new society. He takes her to a secret house of prostitution run by the government, and he frequently and secretly meets with her in his study, where he allows her the contraband activity of reading. The Commander's wife strikes a deal with Offred—she arranges for Offred to have sex with her driver in an effort to get her pregnant, as she believes The Commander is sterile, and in exchange she gives Offred news of her daughter, who Offred has not seen since she and her family were captured trying to escape Gilead. Through another handmaid, Ofglen, Offred learns of the Mayday resistance. As the novel concludes, Offred is being taken away by men in a large black van. The novel concludes with a metafictional epilogue that explains that the events of the novel occurred shortly after the beginning of what is called "the Gilead Period." The epilogue itself is a "transcription of a Symposium on Gileadean Studies written some time in the distant future (2195)," and according to the symposium's "keynote speaker" Professor Pieixoto, he and "a colleague", Professor Knotly Wade, discovered Offred's narrative recorded onto thirty cassette tapes. They created a "probable order" for these tapes and transcribed them, calling them collectively "the handmaid's tale".
About the Author Margaret Atwood
Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC, O.Ont, FRSC is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. While she may be best known for her work as a novelist, she is also a poet, having published 15 books of poetry to date. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. Atwood has published short stories in Tamarack Review, Alphabet, Harper's, CBC Anthology, Ms., Saturday Night, and many other magazines. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works. She is among the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood - New
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