The Handmaid's Tale

Political Context of The Handmaid's Tale 12th Grade

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is a nineteen-eighty-five novel depicting the struggles of a young woman unwillingly designated to serve as a surrogate mother for a high ranking official in the totalitarian, theocratic state of Gilead, and her revolt against the oppressive regime. Knowledge of the divisiveness present in American politics and amongst the wider population in the early to mid nineteen-eighties, the period in which Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, has influenced the meaning taken from the text and, in doing so, has allowed readers to view the novel as an opposition to the rise of the Christian right, a conflict uncannily relevant in today’s contemporary society. My comprehension of the growing discontent amongst religious conservatives over the supposedly liberal civil rights policies that so greatly benefitted African-Americans in the nineteen-sixties and paved the way for the Sexual Revolution of the nineteen-eighties; the election of Ronald Reagan and the similarities drawn from his presidency and the novel; and the prescient warning issued by Atwood through the “Historical Notes” epilogue of the novel, have all assisted in shaping the reading of the story as an embodiment of the battle for freedom of...

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