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GCSE: Margaret Atwood

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  1. Examine the significance Religion plays in Gileadian society.

    The commander also includes in the family prayers the same phrase incorporated in the epilogue 'behold my maid Bilhah. She shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.' The relation between this script and Gileadian society is shockingly similar and is likely to be the main source of rationalization Gilead uses. We see here where the name handmaid comes from as 'Bilhah' is called a 'maid'. Bilhah is Offred; there to be used as a surrogate mother, however Offred's position has been highly imposed upon her. This is a very important phrase as it outlines the basic reforms of Gilead.

    • Word count: 1441
  2. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood, 'Discuss the Gileadean concept of "Freedom from, freedom to".

    What is most apparent throughout the novel, is that of Margaret Atwood's criticisms of the permissive approach of America and its people, towards the rising levels of corruption, degradation and immorality in modern society. It is this society that the reader can observe as 'freedom to', where a public is free to do as they please, whether it be correct or not, implying that society has reached a peak where it is bordering on spiralling out of control. The society that has implemented the fundamentalist approach of 'freedom from' is the Republic of Gilead, where the limitations on personal freedom and living conditions are a stark contrast to that of the preceding society.

    • Word count: 1357
  3. The Handmaid's Tale - Consider the ways in which Margaret Atwood creates interest in the society of Gilead in the opening 5 sections of the novel.

    reader begins to understand the necessity for the members of Gilead to feel as though this control is advantageous rather than restrictive. The constant drumming in of this message to Offred starts from the Aunts, who incidentally carry electric cattle prods, a cruel irony on the word Aunt, considering the usual comforting position of Aunts in our own society. As Offred repeats the words of the Aunts to the reader, one senses a hint of sarcasm and dislike to their over simplification.

    • Word count: 1557
  4. How does Atwood present the Commander in Chapter 15?

    Atwood then uses a rhetorical question 'Who knows what she said to him, over the silver-encrusted dinner table? Or didnt say' to keep the reader interested and get the reader thinking about the relationship between this husband and wife. The Commander is described by Atwood as a 'museum guard' in his black uniform. he is then describes as a 'semi-retired man, genial but wary, killing time. But only at first glance', this is important as Atwood is hinting to the reader that all is not what is seems at 'first glance' not just in this chapter but throughout the novel.

    • Word count: 1019
  5. Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in the novel The Handmaid's tale.

    The Gilead regime effectively robs women of their individual identities. Unlike men, women have been facing problems for centuries, and often women experience harassment and discrimination. In today's society, females are trying to combat their afflictions through lawsuits and protest rallies. Though some problems are unavoidable, along with male domination and the laws of society, women have had to contend with other challenging and oppressing situations. Despite this, women in modern society are becoming more powerful. In Gilead, though, women and in particular the Handmaid's, are just mute, replaceable objects.

    • Word count: 1782
  6. Handmaids - Explore the portrayal of Serena Joy and the Commander in the early part of the novel. Also estimate their characters importance in the novel.

    It is a distraction, a place of escape for her from the life that she leads, which is boring and she is not happy with. This is the only freedom she is allowed in the life she leads now, which although it doesn't mean a lot to her, it should be treasured because in Gilead to have freedom like that is unthinkable to most; this portrays Serena Joy to be a women who takes things and her status in the elite, for granted.

    • Word count: 1102
  7. How effective is the opening chapter of The Handmaids Tale?

    The narrator refers to a time gone, where the gymnasium was used for things other than sleeping. "Dances would have been held there" "there was old sex in the room". There is reminiscence of the narrator; they call upon personal observations and experiences from the time gone by "I remember that yearning". Later in the first chapter it becomes clear that the narrator, experienced the "handmaids" experience when she remembers how things were for her, when she slept in the army cots in the gymnasium "as we tried to sleep in the army cots" she uses words such as we had, then, were which all indicate its past tense.

    • Word count: 1464
  8. All around us we see evidence of the way in which belief is institutionalised and abused. Consider Atwood's portrayal of religion in Gilead

    Chapter two offers the reader their first decent example of how religion is used within the society of Gilead. It is in the simple use of a name that Atwood is able to immediately establish a link between her dystopia and the bible. 'Her usual Martha's dress'. In the bible Martha is the sister of Mary who would devote herself to the housework while Mary went to hear Jesus speak. Marthas in 'The Handmaids Tale' are unmarried, infertile women who are expected to perform household duties for the high-ranking members of Gilead. This is the first time the reader is given an example of rank based on religion with Gilead, the reader is made aware of Handmaids and of the Commander earlier in the book but this is the first obvious biblical reference.

    • Word count: 1690
  9. How Effectively Does Atwood Present Offred's Struggle to Establish/Maintain Control Over Her Own Life/Identity

    She can only tell it once she has escaped. We learn at the end, in the Historical notes, that what we have read is a transcript of a jumble of cassette recordings that have been found on an archaeological site. What we have is a later reconstruction of Offred's reconstruction told after her escape, and by the time of out reading, Offred herself has disappeared. Yet story telling is the only possible gesture against the silences of death and of history. The emphasis throughout is on process and reconstruction, where 'truth' is only a matter of the teller's perspective, as Offred often reminds us.

    • Word count: 1184
  10. How is Gilead presented to us over the opening nine chapters of "The Handmaids Tale"?

    This just shows how harsh the rules in Gilead are. Offred is a very strong character, and insists that she will not give in to the society "the door of the room-not my room-I refuse to say my". Her determination is not strong enough though, and although she thinks she has beaten the indoctrination, she has not. She frequently makes references to Aunt Lydia and the sayings that have been drilled into her from the red centre "the republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you".

    • Word count: 1393
  11. Discuss the presentation and importance of Moira and the narrator's mother in the novel 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    These extreme feminists believed very strongly that it was men that were the enemy. Moira is presented as a beacon of hope and normality for Offred when she is first is brought into the Rachel and Leah centre she is still wearing jeans and declares 'This is a loony bin' Moira, always known by her own name because she never becomes a Handmaid. Moira as a character can be viewed in two ways, From Offred's point of view she is the embodiment of female heroism, though from the Gileadean authorities' point of view she is a 'loose woman', a criminal

    • Word count: 1181
  12. Explore the way in which Margaret Atwood presents Moira 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Refer closely to any literary and linguistic approaches where necessary.

    Moira is portrayed as an activist, she does not merely contemplate the possibilities of freedom as Offred does and Offred recognizes this with dissatisfaction as she muses the prospect of what she can do with the fan that she has been given. '"If I were Moira I would know how tot take it apart, reduce it to its cutting edges. I have no screwdriver but if I were Moira I could do it without a screwdriver. I'm not Moira."' This quote clearly outlines the practical nature of Moira juxtapositioned with the more theoretical approach that we would associate with Offred who loathes herself for it.

    • Word count: 1637
  13. What impressions have you formed of the narrator? How has Atwood created these impressions? Give detailed evidence for your answer - 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    All of the way through the book she uses simile's like this to compare normal looking objects or people. 'The smile of blood' is the phrase she uses in chapter six, when she is describing the men, which are hanging on the Wall. The phrase 'The smile of blood' is referring to a stain of blood which has seeped through the white cloth which is covering up the mans face, and she is saying it appears to look like a smile which a child has drawn.

    • Word count: 1202
  14. Conformity in Margaret Atwood's Novel: The Handmaid's Tale

    Handmaid named Offed, longs for the times before the totalitarian government came to power, and does not follow the uniform ways that are being fed to her. Offred exemplifies a non- conformist character, who does not follow the newly standardized ways. This contrasts with the other Handmaids who are too afraid to stray from the expectations of conformity, therefore leading to more conformists than non-conformists. Atwood?s portrayal of these two types of characters is used to make a commentary of the role of women in society and their ability to make a difference.

    • Word count: 1545
  15. Handmaid's Tale - the character of Offred.

    For instance, Offred has many moments and flashbacks where she reminisces about her past. This implies that she has regrets and obstacles in her life, just as every human being does. When Offred describes her appearance, albeit briefly, it signifies the insecurities that she keeps bottled up inside ?I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair. I stand five seven without shoes. I have trouble remembering what I used to look like. I have viable ovaries. I have one more chance? (Atwood, 143). Had she been proud of what she looked like, she most likely would have gone into more detail, but the lack of words plainly states that she thinks nothing special about herself.

    • Word count: 1484

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