A reading club with a view to the future

595 Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

A dystopian society where fertile women are subjugated as handmaids, telling a tale of oppression, resistance, and identity



"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood is a chilling dystopian novel set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian society formed in the aftermath of a religiously motivated coup in the United States. The story unfolds through the perspective of Offred, a handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander for the sole purpose of bearing him a child.


Title: The Handmaid's Tale 

Author: Margaret Atwood 

Publishing Year: 1985 

Publisher: McClelland and Stewart 

Length: 11 hours and 1 minutes 

5 main ideas

  1. Dystopian Society: The novel presents a nightmarish vision of a society where religious fundamentalism has overtaken governance, resulting in oppressive and gender-based social structures.
  2. The Handmaid's Role: Handmaids are assigned to powerful men to bear children on their behalf, reflecting the subjugation of women to their reproductive capabilities.
  3. The Loss of Identity: Offred's journey highlights the loss of her former identity and autonomy in the face of the Gileadean regime.
  4. Resistance and Rebellion: The novel explores the different forms of resistance undertaken by women in the face of their oppressive reality.
  5. The Role of Memory: Offred's memories of her past life act as a poignant contrast to the bleak and restricted present, highlighting the significance of individual memories and history.

5 funny quotes

Please note that "The Handmaid's Tale" is a dark and somber dystopian novel, and it does not contain light-hearted quotes in the conventional sense.

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum." - "Don't let the bastards grind you down."
  2. "Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it."
  3. "Freedom, like everything else, is relative."
  4. "Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some."
  5. "We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories."

5 dilemmas

  1. The Dilemma of Female Subjugation: The handmaids' struggle to retain their individuality and agency in a society that devalues and objectifies them solely for their reproductive function.
  2. The Conflict between Freedom and Security: The tension between the desire for personal freedom and the perceived need for security, which drives the Gileadean regime's oppressive policies.
  3. The Moral Dilemma of Resistance: The handmaids face the dilemma of whether to comply with the system to survive or to resist, risking severe punishment for defying the authorities.
  4. The Emotional Dilemma of Motherhood: The internal conflict of handmaids who become pregnant, torn between their maternal instincts and the knowledge that their child will be taken away after birth.
  5. The Power Struggle among Women: The complex dynamics between wives, handmaids, and Aunts, as women navigate their roles within Gilead's strict hierarchical society.

5 examples

  1. Rachel and Leah Re-Education Center - A facility where Handmaids are indoctrinated and trained in Gilead's oppressive ideology.
  2. The Eyes - A secret police force tasked with monitoring and enforcing loyalty to Gilead's regime.
  3. Jezebel's - A clandestine club where high-ranking officials in Gilead indulge in forbidden pleasures and interactions with women.
  4. Serena Joy Waterford - A former televangelist and architect of Gilead's oppressive society, now the wife of Commander Fred Waterford.
  5. Offred - The protagonist and handmaid, whose name literally means "Of Fred," signifying her ownership by Commander Fred Waterford.

Referenced books

"The Handmaid's Tale" does not directly reference other books. It stands as a powerful and influential work that has inspired other works and discussions in literature

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"Freedom, like everything else, is relative."

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