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GCSE: Margaret Atwood

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  1. Discuss The Handmaids Tale as a significant dystopian novel. What affect can it have on the reader?

    They show the handmaid's old pornographic films and photographs. They also damn the previous society by emphasising that women in "the old days" were disgusting and how they didn't respect themselves. An Aunt has got to fulfil this powerful authority to be thought of as useful and to take away or ease their fear of being shipped away as they are infertile. They enforce the law not only by propaganda but also by using physical violence. "No guns though, even they couldn't be trusted with guns" (1) This quote is important as it illustrates the social status of the Aunts.

    • Word count: 1272
  2. Compare and contrast their representation of the different social and cultural forces which contribute to the repressive state.

    Dickens, in 1854 likewise attempted to offer a vision; a vision that challenged the utilitarian philosophy of the time in Industrial Britain. From the 1820's-1850's "Benthamism represented of the prominent exemplar of scientific and materialistic reasoning with respect to social and government activity"ii. Benthamism, named after the work of Jeremy Bentham sought to develop a scientific legislation to effect social progress - it has been directly linked by many critics to the instigation of social reforms in industrial Britain such as the reforms act of 1832.

    • Word count: 3127
  3. What contribution to the novel is made by the character Moira?

    This is done so that characters such as Moira are able to stand out as a symbol of strong feminism contrasting to the normal situation. We see this when Offred when meets Moira who has been recaptured and is working as a prostitute at Jezebel's, servicing the Commanders. Margaret Atwood by placing Moira not as a handmaid but as a prostitute represents an alternative to the lower subservience and acceptance of the fate that most of the Handmaids adopt as she rejected the position of a handmaid once again showing her strength and disagreement with the society unlike Offred's involvement.

    • Word count: 1112
  4. Explore the ways in which religion is presented and its importance in the Handmaid's tale.

    For example "They can hit us there is scriptural precedent". Atwood clearly displays the theme of fundamentalism to demonstrate the ideologies of those that impose the rules Gilead. Offred's perspective often gives the reader an insight into how one would feel if put in the situation of having the regime of Gilead imposed on them. Offred describes some of her actions when she is alone in her room, "I can spend minutes, tens of minutes running my eyes over the print FAITH". This emphases to the reader the notion of hope and that if Offred is going to escape or survive the regime with her sanity intact she needs to have "faith".

    • Word count: 725
  5. Explore the ways Atwood presents the ideas of freedom and imprisonment in The Handmaids Tale.

    Does Atwood influence our views of the freedom and imprisonment through her use of words? Does Atwood have a feminist agenda and does this affect her views on freedom? How does Atwood portray Freedom and Imprisonment within "The Handmaids Tale"? In Gilead "freedom from" is taken for granted. There is a strong state security force in the shape of the guards and the angels. The handmaids, as potentially young and attractive pairs of women feel safe enough to travel the streets just in pairs with no thought towards danger. As far as we are aware there is no serious crime. There are many small rebellions such as with the doctors, "Lots of women do it".

    • Word count: 857
  6. Margaret Atwood,

    The extract from the novel is designed as a brief introduction to the narrator's current life. The paragraphs make it easy to divide into five sections; the narrator's own view of her existence, her surroundings, her husband, her children, and her career. In each section, the key themes, which often surface in the novel, are hinted at. In the narrator's opening, she implies feelings of self-doubt, and introduces the idea of disguise. Although she is initially defensive, "I do of course have a real life," it becomes clear that, rather than accusing the reader of doubting her, she is instead accusing herself.

    • Word count: 1222
  7. Giving voices to suppressed groups or individuals is recognized as a preoccupation of contemporary writing. Discuss contemporary works which you have studied with this preoccupation in view

    Her flood of tears that had cascaded down when she was born symbolized a sorrowful life. The birth room-the kitchen, foreshadowed the strong ties that Tita's life were to have with the kitchen and food, 'it [kitchen] is a source of knowledge and understanding that generates life and pleasure.'-Laura Esquivel1 Tita struggled to appease Mama Elena's propriety that was revealed through the symptoms and illnesses caused by Tita's food in her attempt (if not purposefully) to ruin her sister Rosaura's wedding.

    • Word count: 1058
  8. What is the importance of the Japanese tourists in chapter five of 'The Handmaids Tale'?

    The way in which the character in the novel examines the tourists behaviour reflects this point: 'They look around, bright-eyed, cocking their heads to one side like robins, their very cheerfulness aggressive, and I can't help staring.' This shows that the tourists physical behaviour shares a synchronicity that poses a threat to the Handmaid's, particularly their 'cheerfulness'. The juxtaposition made between cheerful and aggression proposes a despondent jealousy that the tourists have evoked within the Handmaid, it implies that cheerfulness to her is nothing but a distant and an almost untouchable memory.

    • Word count: 866
  9. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 1: What do you think of it?

    "Formerly" suggests that the games used to be played (games represent fun and a sense freedom) but are now forbidden. The fact that the games have been forbidden raises questions as to who has banned them, and shows that there is obviously some sort of authority here. Atwood identifies the girls by image, rather than name or speech; "Felt skirted as I knew them from pictures, later in mini-skirts, then pants....." This shows that Atwood wanted, to a certain extent, to keep the girls anonymous, thus, I imagine increasing the mysteriousness of the passage.

    • Word count: 1078
  10. Themes and issues which take place in The Handmaid's Tale

    Also the women who are called the aunts are described to patrol the corridors with 'electric cattle prods'. This tells us immediately that they handmaids are treated as animals and have a very un-human living. Religion also plays a strong part in The Handmaid's Tale. This is made apparent to the reader when a very rare dialogue appears with two girls about God. 'Praise be, Praise be'. This is repeated very often throughout the conversation. This can tell us that there are very strong views on religion and all the girls must obide by them. This can suggest to us that the society is very totalitarian, in the sense that everyone must obey rules.

    • Word count: 823
  11. The Handmaid's Tale - review

    Margaret Thatcher, who was elected Prime Minister of England in 1979, reversed decades of socialism by selling government-run industries to private owners. In the United States, the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan created such a turbulent reversal of previous social policy that the changes sweeping through the government during the first half of the decade came to be referred to as "the Reagan Revolution." The extreme shift toward conservatism in the United States at that time is significant to the social change that created the Republic of Gilead in Atwood's imagination.

    • Word count: 1405
  12. How does Margaret Atwood create the sense that Gilead is a dystopia in"The Handmaids Tale"?

    Hardship is one of the main themes in this story and is portrayed sometimes in a subtle way, but sometimes in a very deep way. All these girls have had all the liberties taken away from them they have no freedom. When they go on walks they go on walks being monitored. It is impossible for them to escape because the minute they step out of bounds, without permission from one of their superiors they will be shot, without question.

    • Word count: 824
  13. What I have learnt so far about the Regime in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    The opening page portrays sexual tension and 'old sex in the room' referring to the later implications of her desire for freedom and the sexual tension between the other handmaid's and the 'Angels' and 'Guards'. The setting of where they are sleeping in the old gymnasium signifies an imprisonment where orders were given and completed and often they were kept in a confined space being controlled by a person of higher status. We see a clear sign of this in which where she sleeps hence the quotation, 'the army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces between so that we cannot talk'.

    • Word count: 1938
  14. Women in the Handmaid's Tale: Objectification and Value in Reproductive Qualities.

    Infertile women that possess leadership qualities typically are Aunts. Aunts are in charge of schooling handmaids and enforcing female obedience to the regime. Other infertile women lacking leadership qualities are Marthas. The Marthas exist as servants, who cook and clean for the elite. Jezebels, who serve as prostitutes, are also infertile: "nobody in here with viable ovaries either, you can see what kind of problems it would cause" (p. 313). Econowives have a lower status than wives, but are fertile.

    • Word count: 1170
  15. The Handmaid's Tale - The narrator says of her tale, 'I'm sorry it's like fragments, like a body caught in crossfire and pulled apart by force'. How appropriate a description of the structure of the novel do you consider this?

    As she narrates about her life, in Gilead and the time before, she presents herself appealingly. She shows resistance to the current regime. She wishes to establish in Gilead two feelings rigorously suppressed: she wishes to talk and she hungers to 'commit the act of touch' (2:14). Her frequent juxtaposing of her past and preset creates a powerful sense of, not only loss, but also a feeling of great longing for her past life. As she recounts episodes that occur in the regime i.e.

    • Word count: 1180
  16. The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 10 - Textual Analysis.

    'And sometimes from the sitting room there will be thin sound of Serena's voice, from a disc made long ago and played now with the volume low, so she won't be caught listening...' With Serena Joy, although it is obvious she does not agree with regime entirely, this would be more so an act of rebellion than it would be resistance, like with the cigarettes from the black market. With the turn of the new season, the narrator describes how the house easily heats up.

    • Word count: 1315
  17. Consider the way in which Atwood presents Professor Piexto's speech in the Historical Notes. What is its significance in relation to the novel as a whole?

    It is also important in a much more simple sense, that it satisfies the readers curiosity over what happens to the main character and brings the novel to a more satisfactory close. Over the course of the novel the reader has built up a close relationship with Offred through her telling her story completely in the first person. This has the effect of making the reader feel a close connection with Offred, and care what happens to her. The Historical Notes also place the novel in its historical context.

    • Word count: 1014
  18. The Handmaid's Tale - Read back over the opening six chapters - Write about how these chapters represent aspects of Offred's world and introduces Gilead to the reader.

    Their lives are mundane and monotonous and the freedom of choice bares no existence. The fencing and barbed wire does not spark off ideas of protection but prevention, preventing the women from trying to escape. The atrocious treatment of the women leads us to question who is the inhumane authoritarian that causes such suffering? We are led to question the barbaric treatment of the women and this quite neatly prepares us for the introduction of the Gileadian regime. 'Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth patrolled'.

    • Word count: 1948
  19. The Handmaid's Tale - What are the main methods of control in the Gileadean regime and how are these portrayed?

    The government in Gilead felt society was getting out of hand and something had to be done. Propaganda was used to brainwash the Handmaid's into accepting their new regime as 'normality.' They were taught to believe that in the time before women were 'lazy' and 'they were sluts' they were told this to persuade them that the way they used to live was wrong. Gilead first came about when birth rate began to decline, women thought 'there was no sense in breeding,' because they were convinced that 'the world would explode.' As a result of this attitude towards reproduction the government took control and replaced women's freedom with this religious military regime which involves giving birth to a child for a couple who cannot conceive.

    • Word count: 2448
  20. Remind yourself of the last few paragraphs of Chapter 30 of The Handmaids Tale where Offred says 'Tonight I will say my prayers.' How central is the theme of religion in the novel?

    'Gilead is within you' is 'drummed' into the minds of the Handmaid's to make them believe that their new life is much better than it was in the time before. Gilead was formed in response to the crisis caused by dramatically decreased birthrates, therefore the state's entire structure is built around a single goal which is control of reproduction. The bible is used to justify the changes made because the bible encourages reproduction. The bible is also used to justify the ceremony as it is a biblically sanctioned tradition therefore as it is God's will it is almost impossible to argue against.

    • Word count: 890
  21. Was The Handmaid's Tale written from a feminist or anti-feminist perspective?

    It is quietly upheld by those at the top of the hierarchy but is under constant threat of reform. Unlike men, women have been facing problems for centuries, and still women experience harassment and discrimination. 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 and can counteract any problems with lawsuits and protest rallies. In Gilead, though, women and in particular the Handmaid's, are just mute, replaceable objects. As Rita, one of the Martha's says ' She didn't work out' about one of the previous Handmaid's, as if she was an item purchased, but faulty and returned.

    • Word count: 1829
  22. 'Discuss Atwood's presentation of Gilead in the first seventy-six pages of the novel'.

    It is through flashbacks and daily rituals within the Commander's household that the reader learns not only of how Gilead came about but about its violent ethos, limitations and authority. From what Atwood has indicated, the establishment of Gilead was a gradual one, its approach insidious. The founding of the new republic was slow to begin with, influencing only those who chose to watch the programmes it aired featuring the spiritual leadership of Serena Joy and fellow preachers. As the social morality of the time reached a climax of corruption, more and more people turned to the traditional values for guidance, those particularly held by the Church.

    • Word count: 2412
  23. "Examine the nature of oppression so far in the novel."

    For example, the Commanders at the top of the social hierarchy are allowed certain privileges. The Commanders are forbidden from interacting with the Handmaids in any manner, apart from "the Ceremony." "I can see now, it's the Commander, he isn't supposed to be here" (page 59) suggesting a slight rebellion in the regimental system on his part. Oppression in Gilead is imposed by the law, and they attempt to censor or even prohibit sexual urges in men as well as women.

    • Word count: 1202
  24. The Handmaid's Tale - What do you find interesting about the way that Atwood presents women in the novel? Focus on two characters in your answer.

    It is said that an author's purpose for writing dystopian novel is to explore the possible developments of societal trends and warn readers of their potentially dangerous consequences, if this true, then in this case Margaret Atwood warning us through the satire images in The Handmaid's Tale to be aware of political and religious powers that could take away society's freedom of thought and expression. There are many themes in The Handmaid's Tale, one of which is feminism. Feminism is quite difficult term to define mostly because it is not a uniform body of thought in terms of sociological perspectives

    • Word count: 1259
  25. The Yellow Wallpaper.

    She says: "It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village." She narrates that this place makes her think of English places that someone would read about because, "there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for gardeners and people." However although on the surface this may seem pleasing, in terms of the underlying symbolism, it represents isolation and restriction. The wall and locks link to the way the narrator feels increasingly trapped throughout the narrative. This negative symbolism continues when we are told of the room the narrator is given in the house.

    • Word count: 1320

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