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How successful is The Handmaid's Taleas a piece of science fiction?

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  • Essay length: 938 words
  • Submitted: 14/08/2003
GCSE Margaret Atwood

An extract from this essay...

English Literature

Beth Jackson

How successful is The Handmaid's Tale

as a piece of science fiction?

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood like many other science fiction novels draws on many problems in today's society and elaborates on them, showing what could happen in the future if we do not recognise these problems. It is predominately a novel of prophecy and warning.

The novel portrays a grim future when the United States no longer exists. A highly organised group of right wing religious conservatives succeeds in setting off a revolution. They create a new society known as Gilead where women are stripped of all the freedoms that the feminist movement secured for them. The new Gilead society forces previously independent women to live by Old Testament values.

The novel is set in American in the not too distant future, Atwood describes events in the past which have actually happened such as the Women's liberation movement of the 1960's and 70's which makes the novel sound truthful and believable. Although the events in the novel are far fetched nothing is so far fetched that it couldn't happen. Long and detailed descriptions of the past and how the new society began give credence to the novels credibility. Like Aldous Huxleys 'Brave New World' of 1932 and George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' the novel uses the idea of dystopian society.

The style of the novel, written as a fictive autobiography, lets the reader into the mind of the central character Offred. The reader only sees the new Gileadian society through the eyes of a Handmaid so although a certain degree of bias is obvious the reader feels that the narrator is being truthful. The character of Offred is in many ways very much similar to the central character in George Orwells nineteen eighty-four. The action of this novel like The Handmaid's Tale is built around the main person, Winston Smith, and therefore the understanding of his personality, and his character is important for the understanding of the whole book

The novel is written in first person and the general style of the writing is quite informal with lots of bursts of emotion for example the section when Offred recites her own version of the Lords Prayer. The story is told

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