A Handmade

’s Tale Essay, Research Paper Final assignment Novel Analysis The handmaid?s tale 1997-1998 Gerald F. Curial Table of contents Introduction 1 A. Analysing a Short Story or Novel.

’s Tale Essay, Research Paper

Final assignment

Novel Analysis

The handmaid?s tale


Gerald F. Curial

Table of contents

Introduction 1

A. Analysing a Short Story or Novel.

Outline of key-events 2

Characterization 3

Use of Frequency 4

Theme(s) 4

Narrative technique 4

Plot and tension 4

Style 4

B. Discussion questions 5

Personal evaluation 5


?The handmaid?s tale? was recommended to me by Vanessa Arendsz. She was a student at the H.A.N.

?The handmaid?s tale? is about a woman that narrates her story. The story of how she struggles in a society where women have lost their freedom. She desperately wants to see her daughter again, and she is willing to do anything to get her daughter back.




 Offred remembers walking with her mother, who was a liberated woman, through a park, where women were burning porno books and magazines.

 Offred fall in love with Luke. Luke had already been married.

 The president of the republic of Gilead and a lot of members of Congress were killed, money was abolished and the Constitution was suspended.

 Strong measures were taken against immoral practices.

 The bank accounts of women, who were single or married to a divorced man, were blocked and the women were obliged to quit from their jobs.

 Offred and Luke tried to escape from the Republic, but they fail and she lost Luke and her daughter.

 Offred is taken to the Red Center, Rachel and Leah Re-education Center, where the ?Aunts? took care of them.

 The Handmaids are not allowed to talk to each other and are only allowed to go outside the building twice a day for short walks.

 Moira, an old friend of Offred, tried to escape from the Center, but failed and after being tortured she could not walk for a week.

 Moira tried to escape from the center and she succeeded in it.

 Handmaid are obliged to see old porno films, to see how women where treated, and films about unwomen.

 Offred is transferred to the house of a Commander and his wife Serena Joy.

 Ofglen is assigned to walk with her when they to the heart of the Republic. They are supposed to spy each other.

 On their way back they walk along the Wall to see the hanging bodies. The bodies are a result of the Salvagings.

 In the summer Handmaid?s change their dresses.

 Once a month Handmaids are taken to the doctor to do a pregnancy test.

 The doctor offered Offred help, because she was not pregnant. But she refused, because it is illegal and the punishment is death.

 Each month the Ceremony took place and the Commander read the same passages out of the bible.

 Ofwarren gave birth to a girl, but her Commander?s wife took the baby away.

 Offred and the Commander began meeting in the evening, and sometimes he gave her a present.

 Because Offred could not get pregnant from the Commander, Serena offered her to make sex to Nick (the driver). If Offred accepts, Serena will show her a picture of her daughter.

 The Commander took Offred to a party to a club, where they do things that are strictly forbidden (e.g. prostitutes).

 Offred met Moira in the club and Moira told her how she escaped and was caught.

 Offred started seeing Nick each evening.

 One day they went to a Salvaging. There they killed a man, who was accused as a rapist. But he really was a member of the underground movement.

 On the next walk another Handmaid has replaced Ofglen. The former Ofglen committed suicide.

 They came and take Offred away in a black van. She was accused of ?Violation of State Secrets?.

 Professor Pieixoto is analyzing the tapes of Offred during a convention.


Offred (round character)

1. Offred (in the beginning of the story)

Object: to stay alive and not be brainwashed

Motivation/stimulus: not clear

Receiver: herself

Helper(s): her memoirs

Adversary: the regime

2. Offred (mid-story)

Object: to serve the commander and have a good time

Motivation/stimulus: desire for living.

Receiver: herself and the commander

Helper(s): the commander

Adversary: no one

3. Offred (in the end of the story)

Object: to stay alive and escape from the center

Motivation/stimulus: her daughter, who was still alive.

Receiver: herself

Helper(s): Nick

Adversary: Serena Joy

End: She escaped from the country


Object: to escape from the center.

Motivation/stimulus: her desire for freedom.

Receiver: herself

Helper(s): herself

Adversary: the aunts

End: she becomes a prostitute.

There is not much development in this character.

The commander 1

Object: to follow the doctrine of the Republic of Gilead


Receiver: Himself

Helper(s): Serena Joy and

Adversary: no one

The commander 2

Object: to have a good time by doing forbidden things.

Motivation/stimulus: boredom of the monotony of his house.

Receiver: himself

Helper(s): Offred

Adversary: Serena Joy

End: Offred escapes and leave him alone.

Serena Joy

Object: to have children (no matter what it will cost).

Motivation/stimulus: the fact that she cannot have children of her own.

Receiver: herself

Helper(s): the handmaids, Nick, the aunts and the commander.

Adversary: the commander (he was not fertile)

End: proposes Offred to sleep with Nick in exchange she would show Offred a picture of Offred?s daughter.

There is not much development in this character.


(Imagery, characterization, symbols, mood, etc.)

The names Of… like Offred, Ofwarren or Ofglen, indicate to which person they belonged. For instance, Ofwarren belonged to someone named Warren.

The Aunts symbolized the misuse of power of the regime.

The colors of the dresses of the Handmaids showed the rank division of the Handmaids.


Exploitation of women:

The women who were not married or married to a man who was divorced, were used to bear children.

Misuse of power:

Women were just send to home from their work. They (the people who were in power, not the government) took possession of all the money that they had on their account.

The constitution was suspended.

Misuse of the doctrine of the bible:

Owing to the fact that the birthrate had dropped in the Gileadean Republic, they decided that more children should be made. So they decided to follow the example of Jacob and his two wives. Jacob made the servants of his wives pregnant, because his wives couldn?t give him more children.

People were killed during the ?salvagings? (Christ died so that we could be saved from our sins). So people who were accused of being rapers, disloyal to their commander or immoral were sentenced to death. Because it was only in this way that their soul could be saved from hell.


Women were obliged to have sex against their will.

Women were divided into groups of different level. The color of their clothes showed to which group they belonged.


The narrative technique used in this book of Margaret Atwood is of the ?I-person within the story?. The focalisator is reliable, because she tells her story in very clear way, so that it is easy to understand even when the story line is abruptly cut by flashbacks. I think that that is what helped her to keep a clear mind. Because even through all the misery the memories of her past and her hope to meet Luke and her daughter again, that helped her not to breakdown.


 During the story the main character is constantly afraid of being caught during forbidden acts.

 The writer used the scenically technique to create an atmosphere of suspense. For example the chapter of ?Salviging? was as precisely told as possible so that the reader could feel him-/herself as apart of the story.


Margaret Atwood?s style of writing is difficult to follow. In ?The handmaid?s tale.? she used a lot of words I had never heard in my life (I was constantly looking for words in the dictionary), the reading was pretty tough. In the beginning the story is like a puzzle with a lot separated pieces, but as I was reading I started seeing the links in the story.

The story does not contain any kind of humor. But at a certain moment I thought that the writer was mocking the society of Israel, Irak, Turkey and all the other countries where women are dressed like the women in the story.



 If you were in power of such a society, would you treat women like that?

 Why does it sometimes seem that not man, but women are in power in this society?

 Why does it seem that the story is a satire of the life in Eastern countries.

Personal Evaluation

This book by Margaret Atwood is very good. It is amazing. In the beginning it is a bit difficult to follow the story line, because of all the flashbacks. But at a certain moment in the story all the pieces fall together and the story becomes clear to the reader.

It was because of this kind of technique that the writer created a kind of atmosphere that made me curious. I wanted to know how it was going to end.

At a certain moment I even started feeling like one of the handmaids. I could feel their pain, their sorrow, their hatred, etc. That is why I enjoyed this book. It makes you feel that you are one of the characters.

The language, which was used in the book, was not difficult to understand. I did not use my dictionary a lot. But I have to say that it is not so well written as ?I know why the caged bird sings.?


A handmades tale; Margeret Atwood