The Handmaid's Tale - Short Sample Answers

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Table of Contents

How does The Handmaid’s Tale depict the intersection between politics and sexual reproduction? How is Gilead’s political order defined by this intersection, and how does it affect the lives of women? 4

Discuss the significance of setting in The Handmaid’s Tale. Why does Atwood choose to set the novel where she does? 5

How does Gilead create and use a new vocabulary to buttress its totalitarian order? 6

How does The Handmaid’s Tale depict the intersection between politics and sexual reproduction? How is Gilead’s political order defined by this intersection, and how does it affect the lives of women?

At first, religion seems to be the central element of Gileadean society, defining all aspects of life. But, in fact, the entire structure of Gilead, including its state religion, is built around one goal: the control of reproduction. Gilead is a society facing a crisis of dramatically dropping birthrates; to solve the problem, it imposes state control on the means of reproduction –

namely, the bodies of women. Controlling women’s bodies can succeed only by controlling the women themselves, so Gilead’s political order requires the subjugation of women. They strip women of the right to vote, the right to hold property or jobs, and the right to read.

Women are a “national resource,” Gilead likes to say, but they really mean that women’s ovaries and wombs are national resources. Women cease to be treated as individuals, with independent selves. Rather, they are seen p...

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