The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

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Overview

Featured title on PBS's The Great American Read in 2018

Audie Award, Fiction, 2013

Margaret Atwood's popular dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale explores a broad range of issues relating to power, gender, and religious politics. Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner Claire Danes (Temple Grandin, Homeland) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time.

After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression.

The Handmaid's Tale is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star had a hand in selecting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480560109
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 07/22/2014
Series: Handmaid's Tale Series
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 553,161
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD is the author of more than forty works of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. She lives in Toronto.

Hometown:

Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario

Education:

B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt

from the Introduction
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Margaret Atwood.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A taut thriller, a psychological study, a play on words.…A rich and complex book.”
New York Times

“Atwood has peered behind the curtain into some of the darkest, most secret, yet oddly erotic corners of the mind, and the result is a fascinating, wonderfully written, and disturbing cautionary tale.”
Toronto Sun

“A novel that will both chill and caution readers and which may challenge everyday assumptions.…It is an imaginative accomplishment of a high order. . . . ”
London Free Press

“Moving, vivid and terrifying. I only hope it is not prophetic.”
–Conor Cruise O’Brien

“A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections of politics and sex.…Satisfying, disturbing and compelling.”
Washington Post

“The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood’s novels.”
Maclean’s

“It deserves an honored place on the small shelf of cautionary tales that have entered modern folklore – a place next to, and by no means inferior to, Brave New World and 1984.”
Publishers Weekly

“Deserves the highest praise.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has written the most chilling cautionary novel of the century.”
Phoenix Gazette

“Imaginative, even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace.”
Globe and Mail

“Margaret Atwood’s novels tickle our deepest sexual and psychological fears. The Handmaid’s Tale is a sly and beautifully crafted story about the fate of an ordinary woman caught off guard by extraordinary events. . . . A compelling fable of our time.”
Glamour

“This visionary novel, in which God and Government are joined, and America is run as a Puritanical Theocracy, can be read as a companion volume to Orwell’s 1984 –its verso, in fact. It gives you the same degree of chill, even as it suggests the varieties of tyrannical experience; it evokes the same kind of horror even as its mordant wit makes you smile.”
–E. L. Doctorow

Reading Group Guide

1. Atwood says that her novel’s title was meant to evoke both Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and folktales or fairy tales. Why might she have wanted readers to make those connections?

2. The novel’s first epigraph, from Genesis, reveals the Biblical precedent that Gilead’s founders use to justify exploiting Handmaids. Given their apparent allegiance to the Bible, why do Gilead’s rulers keep it under lock and key?

3. The novel’s second epigraph is from Jonathan Swift’s famously satirical “Modest Proposal,” in which he suggests solving the Irish famine by having the starving peasants sell their children as food for the rich. Beyond signaling her satiric intent, do you think Atwood meant to suggest any deeper connections between Swift’s vision and hers? Does humor have any role in her satire?

4. The third epigraph is a Sufi proverb: “In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones.” What do you think this means in the context of this story?

5. Offred’s name vividly represents the erasure of her former identity and of her independent selfhood. Readers have found other evocative echoes in it: “offered,” “afraid,” “off-read.” Do these associations deepen your sense of her character?

6. Why do you think the Aunts participate so enthusiastically in the oppression of their fellow women? Are their motives different from those of the Commanders’ Wives?

7. Serena Joy was instrumental in bringing about the new social order, which now severely limits her role. Does she seem to feel that the trade-offs she has made were worth it?

8. In her introduction, Atwood argues that her novel is not “anti-religion,” but only “against the use of religion as a front for tyranny.” Is her argument persuasive to you? Is it as relevant now as when she wrote the novel?

9. Atwood was concerned that readers might find Gilead’s horrors implausible, so she only included events that had actually occurred at some point in history. She lists examples in her introduction; can you think of more? Does knowing this make it seem more likely that something like Gilead could happen here?

10. Do you think the growing popularity of dystopian novels in recent years reflects increased pessimism about the future? Atwood has denied that The Handmaid’s Tale was meant as a prediction, explaining her intention as “anti-prediction,” meaning that “if this future can be described in detail, perhaps it won’t happen.” Do you think that might be (as she also suggests) wishful thinking?

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