for seminar discussion
study guide: Link: http://www.wsu.edu:8000/~brians/science_fiction/handmaid.html
Wikipedia entry on
the novel: Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale
Annotations Database: Link: http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=157
Topics for discussion
Are the characters
flat or round? Especially the victimizers?
important legacy of
... was a new public awareness that nature was vulnerable to human
intervention. Rachel Carson had made a radical proposal: that, at
times, technological progress is so fundamentally at odds with
natural processes that it must be curtailed. Conservation had never
raised much broad public interest, for few people really worried
about the disappearance of wilderness. But the threats Carson had
outlined -- the contamination of the food chain, cancer, genetic
damage, the deaths of entire species -- were too frightening to
ignore. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order
to protect the environment became widely accepted, and
environmentalism was born.”
& the influence of
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962)
What are the
different ways in which the Bible plays a prominent role in the
novel, both as alleged confirmation for Gilead ideology, and as
ironic reference by the author?
Comment on the
various doublings (e.g. between wife and handmaid) that are
represented throughout the novel.
What is the gender
politics that affects Offred’s relations present and past with
What is the scope
for humor and irony in the novel? To what ends are these effects
How does God play
a role in the novel (e.g. 204-5, 221?
How do you react
to the novel’s handling of issues concerning sexuality as
related to pleasure and as related to the procreative function?
What are the larger effects on human relations and on individual
consciousness of the transformations in
mores as represented in the novel?
The careful, slow,
minimalist style of close-up first-person narration
apparatus and its fictional claims
“I have control
over the ending.” (49). Comment on the moments in the novel
where the narrator is self-reflexive about narrativity.
Pollution Sterility need for
premise for the situation or state-of-affairs:
resistance: Luke; Moira; Commander; Offglen.
Angels, Aunts, Birthmobiles, Ceremony, Commanders, Compubite,
Eye, Guardian, Handmaid, Holy Rollers, Particicution,
Prayvaganza, Salvagings, Soul Scrolls, Testify, Underwhore,
Unwoman, Unbaby, Wife...
We were a society
dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice. (35)
There is more than
one kind of freedom, said Autn Lydia. Freedom to and freedom
from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are
being given freedom from. (34)
What happens to
the institution of marriage in the future imagined/invented by
Comment on the
relation of the protagonist/narrator to her former husband, her
child, and her mother.
How does the novel
treat the mother’s feminism?
THE MOVIE (1990):
Does the narrative
move as slowly in the film as in the novel? What do you think is
the result of the differences?
What does the
movie “explain” quickly which it takes a good deal longer to
realize while reading the book?
Which aspects of
the book are handled well or adequately by the film? And which