The Handmaid's Tale

Context of Production: The Handmaid's Tale as a Work of Its Time 12th Grade

Texts are, by nature, cultural artefacts, intrinsically influenced by the societys from which they emerge. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) offers a “twist of today’s society” – the phallocentric Gileadean dictatorship, as seen through the eyes of narrator Offred. Set in a totalitarian and repressive theocracy, Atwood warns of the danger of fundamentalist religion ideology – likely influenced by the global resurgence of totalitarianism in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She offers a warning, particularly to female readers, of the need for feminism - due to the subversive nature of the patriarchy (written in the shadow of the 1980s anti-feminist backlash), as well as the need for women to work together rather than against each other. With the founding of the UN Environment Program in 1972, as well as the publication of Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring, global concern over environmental degradation was evident during the 1980s – influencing Atwood’s dystopian warning of the need to preserve our environment. Hence Atwood’s contextual concerns arise in the novel.

The 1980s featured environmental concerns, influencing The Handmaid’s Tale’s dystopian depiction of a ravaged environment, and its suggestion of the need...

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