You, like me, probably already know that The Handmaid’s Tale is a Dystopian novel published in 1985 , you’ve probably heard that more times than you care to count, but what really was Margaret Atwood’s intent?
The novel expresses the rights of women and their fight to gain individualism and independence, it does this in a rather counter-intuitive way, by illustrating the loss of these rights, and process by which little by little, women’s rights are taken back a century or two. The novel ‘s title echoes that of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”, which comprises a series of connected stories with names such as the Merchant’s tale and the Parson’s tale.
I won’t go into too much detail on this as this is primarily about the author, but briefly, in Chaucer’s famous medieval work, a group of people were on a pilgrimage on horseback, to pass the time they each tell a story. These stories have names like “The Miller’s Tale” or “The Reeve’s Tale” which refer to the main character’s role in society. “The Handmaid’s Tale” holds to this pattern as the narrator’s role in society is a Handmaid.
Atwood claims that The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of speculative fiction, it offers a satirical view of various social, political and religious trends of 1800’s United States. She wanted to show the in the novel the answers to questions like, what would happen if this type of moral system crept back in and the majority of people held these attitude’s about women, and worse what if they were taken to the chilling but logical end. She continues to argue that all scenarios in the handmaid tale had actually happened in real life. In an interview, she gave the details about the concept of the story. She said that she did not put anything that we haven’t already done as a society, in the novel. She detailed that all of the people and characters in the story were real in there essence, based on real people.
She explained that the handmaid tale is a response to those who claim the oppressive, totalitarian, and religious government has taken hold in other countries throughout the years. In this work, she tried to show how such an extreme thing might play out. Her inspiration for the Republic of Gilead came from her studying early American Puritan’s in Harvard; she attended on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. She argues that the modern view of the Puritans that they came to America to flee Religious Persecution in England and set up a religiously tolerant society is misleading and that instead, these Puritan leaders wanted to establish a monolithic theocracy were religious dissent would not be accepted, she has also had a personal connection to the Puritans, and she has dedicated the movie to her own ancestor, who was accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England but survived her hanging.
Due to the totalitarian nature of Gilead’s society, Puritan New England with its marked bias against women, need the opportunity of community period of social chaos to reassert it. She stated that she doesn’t consider these people to be Christians because they do not have at the core of their behavior, Christianity means not only to love your neighbors but also love your enemies, she wants to express the religious attitude of people to be Christian. She also declared that in the real world today, some of the religious groups are leading movements for the protection of vulnerable groups including women, because they want to protect women against any violence. She also draws a connection between the ways in which Gilead’s leaders maintain their power and other examples of actual totalitarian government. Atwood’s strong stance on environmental issues and their negative consequences for our society has presented itself in other and refers back to her growing up with biologist and her own scientific curiosity. All parts of this movie are very inspirational to Margaret Atwood.
You might also be interested in: