Mass Market Paperbound
416 pages, 6.87 × 4.17 × 1.12 in
August 10, 1998
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0770428207
ISBN - 13: 9780770428204
Read from the Book
1We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light.There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or in the television room with the sound turned down and only the pictures flickering over lifting flesh.We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability? It was in the air; and it was still in the air, an afterthought, as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces betwe
From the Publisher
It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now...everything has changed.
About the Author
Nominated for the first ever Man Booker International Prize representing the best writers in contemporary fiction, Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 35 internationally acclaimed works of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her numerous awards include the Governor General’s Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Giller Prize and Italian Premio Mondello for Alias Grace. The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace, and Oryx and Crake were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, which she won with The Blind Assassin. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has been awarded the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit and the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres among many others; she is a Foreign Honorary Member for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Toronto.
An Interview with Margaret Atwood on her novel The Handmaid’s TaleWas there any special research involved in writing The Handmaid’s Tale?I clipped articles out of newspapers. I now have a large clippings file of stories supporting the contentions in the book. In other words, there isn’t anything in the book not based on something that has already happened in history or in another country, or for which actual supporting documentation is not already available.It’s hard to pin down a genre for this novel. Is it science fiction?No, it certainly isn’t science fiction. Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that. That isn’t this book at all. The Handmaid’s Tale is speculative fiction in the genre of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Nineteen Eighty-Four was written not as science fiction but as an extrapolation of life in 1948. So, too, The Handmaid’s Tale is a slight twist on the society we have now.You seem to see a role for the novel beyond entertainment.I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn’t simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this.What are we to learn from The Handmaid’s Tale?This is a book about what happens when certain casually held attitudes about women are taken to their logical conclusions. For example, I explore a number of conservative opinions still held by many
From Our Editors
Margaret Atwood presents a chillingly convincing futuristic story of sexual slavery in the former United States in this tour de force in the mold of Brave New World. Offred leaves the house once a day to attend market and lies with the Commander once a month to procreate in the new Republic of Gilead. She can recall a different life when she had a husband, a family, a job and money of her own. The Handmaid's Tale, a, is infused with biting humour and topical commentary, in the best science fiction tradition.
"The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood's novels."
"The Handmaid's Tale is in the honorable tradition of Brave New World and other warnings of dystopia. It's imaginative even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace."
—The Globe and Mail
"The Handmaid's Tale brings out the very best in Atwood — moral vision, biting humor, and a poet's imagination."
1. The novel begins with three epigraphs. What are their functions?
2. In Gilead, women are categorized as wives, handmaids, Marthas, or Aunts, but Moira refuses to fit into a niche. Offred says she was like an elevator with open sides who made them dizzy; she was their fantasy. Trace Moira's role throughout the tale to determine what she symbolizes.
3. Aunt Lydia, Janine, and Offred's mother also represent more than themselves. What do each of their characters connote? What do the style and color of their clothes symbolize?
4. At one level, The Handmaid's Tale is about the writing process. Atwood cleverly weaves this sub-plot into a major focus with remarks by Offred such as "Context is all," and "I've filled it out for her," "I made that up," and "I wish this story were different." Does Offred's habit of talking about the process of storytelling make it easier or more difficult for you to suspend disbelief?
5. A palimpsest is a medieval parchment that scribes attempted to scrape clean and use again, though they were unable to obliterate all traces of the original. How does the new republic of Gilead's social order often resemble a palimpsest?
6. The Commander in the novel says you can't cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instincts?
7. Why is the Bible under lock and key in Gilead?
8. Babies are referred to as "a keeper," "unbabies," "shredders." What other real or fictional worlds do these terms suggest?
9. Atwood's title brings to mind titles from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Why might Atwood have wanted you to make that connection?
10. What do you feel the "Historical Notes" at the book's end add to the reading of this novel? What does the book's last line mean to you?