The Handmaid's Tale

Social Commentary in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

This novel is an account of the near future, a dystopia, wherepollution and radiation has rendered countless women sterile, and the birthrates of North America are dangerously declining. A puritan theocracy nowcontrols the former United States called the Republic of Gilead andHandmaids are recruited to repopulate the state. This novel containsAtwood's strong sense of social awareness, as seen in the use of satire tocomment on different social conditions in the novel. The Handmaid'sTale is a warning to young women of the 'post-feminist' 1980s and after,who began taking for granted the rights that had been secured for womenby the women before them.

The environmental danger of pollution and radiation run off from powerplants is commented on in the novel. Atwood is voicing her concernsabout the destruction of the environment here, and warns us of thepossibilities if the destruction continues in our world. Her view is extremeof course, made to shock people into thinking about the potentialdanger. In the novel, pollution and radiation had overwhelmed thepopulation causing sterility in both men and women. Babies were often borndeformed, (these were called 'Unbabies') or died during pregnancy orshortly after...

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