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My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale Cover

ISBN13: 9780385490818
ISBN10: 038549081x
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The novel begins with three epigraphs. What are their functions?

2. In Gilead, women are categorized as wives, handmaids, Marthas, or Aunts, but Moira refuses to fit into a niche. Offred says she was like an elevator with open sides who made them dizzy, she was their fantasy. Trace Moira's role throughout the tale to determine what she symbolizes.

3. Aunt Lydia, Janine, and Offred's mother also represent more than themselves. What do each of their characters connote? What do the style and color of their clothes symbolize?

4. At one level, The Handmaid's Tale is about the writing process. Atwood cleverly weaves this sub-plot into a major focus with remarks by Offred such as "Context is all," and "I've filled it out for her...," "I made that up," and "I wish this story were different." Does Offred's habit of talking about the process of storytelling make it easier or more difficult for you to suspend disbelief?

5. A palimpsest is a medieval parchment that scribes attempted to scrape clean and use again, though they were unable to obliterate all traces of the original. How does the new republic of Gilead's social order often resemble a palimpsest?

6. The commander in the novel says you can't cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instinct?

7. Why is the Bible under lock and key in Gilead?

8. Babies are referred to as "a keeper," "unbabies," "shredders." What other real or fictional worlds do these terms suggest?

9. Atwood's title brings to mind titles from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Why might Atwood have wanted you to make that connection?

10. What do you feel the historical notes at the book's end add to the reading of this novel? What does the book's last line mean to you?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

Eric Hamell, August 5, 2014 (view all comments by Eric Hamell)
I found it a very compelling story.
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Kasey Weird, August 2, 2014 (view all comments by Kasey Weird)
Atwood's writing is beautifully accessible, if that is a phrase that makes sense. And Handmaid's Tale in particular is a defining work, taking the idea of women's bodies being primarily for reproduction to an extreme that reveals the deep problems with such a perspective.
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cominguplray, November 12, 2012 (view all comments by cominguplray)
This is one of my favorite books. It is gripping, vivid, exciting, frightening, and full of human spirit. The story follows a woman in an ultra-religious and oppressive future society in which leaders are panicking and dissenters are silenced quickly. She struggles to make sense of the world, longs for the past, and endeavors to return to some semblance of the life she knew before the world went mad. It was a book that I couldn't put down, full of imagery and emotion, and one that I could read over and over again.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385490818
Author:
Atwood, Margaret
Publisher:
Anchor
Author:
Atwood, Margaret
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Science Fiction - General
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Fantasy
Subject:
Women -- Fiction.
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Science / General
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Science / Adventure
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
April 1998
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.35 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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History and Social Science » Politics » General

The Handmaid's Tale Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Anchor - English 9780385490818 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Atwood's classic dystopian novel of a terrifying (and terrifyingly plausible) future America has rewarded rereading like no other book; I've probably read it 30 times by now. The world of the narrator, Offred (from "Of Fred" — women no longer have their own names), is chilling, but she is a magnificent survivor and chronicler, and the details of everything from mundane daily life to ritualized sex and violence to her reminiscences of the time before (our contemporary reality, as seen in the '80s) are absolutely realistic. The novel is as relevant today as ever; feminist backlashes continue to wax and wane, but women's rights remain in the spotlight. And despite its scenarios of great despair, The Handmaid's Tale is ultimately a hopeful book — Offred, and others, simply cannot be human without the possibility of hope, and therein lies the strength of the resistance. All of Atwood is worth reading, but this book best exemplifies the cultural and psychological impact that a work of fiction can create.

"Review" by , "A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex....Just as the world of Orwell's 1984 gripped our imaginations, so will the world of Atwood's handmaid!"
"Review" by , "The Handmaid's Tale deserves the highest praise."
"Review" by , "Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling conclusions....An excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking....Read it while it's still allowed."
"Review" by , "Splendid."
"Review" by , "[A] taut thriller, a psychological study, a play on words. It has a sense of humor about itself, as well as an ambivalence toward even its worst villains."
"Review" by , "The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood's novels."
"Review" by , "The Handmaid's Tale is in the honorable tradition of Brave New World and other warnings of dystopia. It's imaginative, even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace."
"Review" by , "The Handmaid's Tale brings out the very best in Atwood — moral vision, biting humor, and a poet's imagination."
"Synopsis" by , First published in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale is a novel of such power that the reader is unable to forget its images and its forecast. With more than two million copies in print, it is Margaret Atwood's most popular and compelling novel. Set in the near future, it describes life in what once was the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead. Reacting to social unrest, and a sharply declining birthrate, the new regime has reverted to — even gone beyond — the repressive tolerance of the original Puritans.
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