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University Degree: Margaret Atwood

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  1. Examine the Character of Offred and Consider her Role as the Heroine of the Novel.

    She insists on voicing her own opinion when the regime demands total silence. However, her freedom is very circumscribed and she is unable to tell her story within the Gileadean context; she can only tell it after she has escaped. Therefore, Offred's only possible gesture against the silences of death and history is the act of story telling. Furthermore, through the language she uses, rather than the events of the story she tells, Offred convinces us of her resistance to Gilead's values.

    • Word count: 1144
  2. What is Atwood's message in The Handmaid's Tale?

    Canada is normally seen as a much more liberal country where as America is more known for their extremes showing that these could be the real danger that would result in such events occurring. Using references such as these makes the reader see how this could be a natural progression for the extremists, and understand how the current direction of society could eventually lead to such a regime. Offred describes herself as "A Sister dipped in blood" which is referring to the uniform handmaids are required to wear, by both the colour and by the literal blood shed to enforce the new regulations that require she wears it.

    • Word count: 2606
  3. 'There is more than one kind of freedom,' said Aunt Lydia. 'Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.' Examine the qualities of life for women in the light of Aunt Lydia's statement.

    The past for Offred is now gone, and probably will be forgotten or changed by future generations in time. We learn about Offred's background as she recounts her past and she tells us about the situation she now finds herself in. We know that Offred is educated; she studied Psychology, English and Economics to a high level, maybe studying these subjects at a university. In the days of ''anarchy'' women were encouraged to study and become educated. Now in the Republic of Gilead, Offred and the other Handmaids are not allowed to read or write. Even the shop signs only have pictures on, it was decided that ''even the names of shops were too much temptation'' for them.

    • Word count: 1537
  4. Alienation in 'Le Vice-Consul', 'Elise ou la vraie vie', 'Pluie et vent sur Télumée-Miracle' and 'The Handmaid's Tale.'

    The novel begins with a story written by Peter Morgan, an Englishman who frequents the colonial society. On this occasion he is fascinated with a mad beggar-woman who haunts Calcutta with her grotesque appearance and her incomprehensible song. Writing the story of the beggar-woman is for Duras a means of comprehending the horror of existence. Providing a symbol of alienation and loss, the beggar-woman reflects many of Duras' protagonists who become and are defined by their sense of alienation. The mendiante's march is described as a movement towards madness. "Depuis combien de temps est-elle sans m�moire? Quoi dire � la place de ce qu'elle n'aurait pas dit?

    • Word count: 4000
  5. Offred's tale has been described as "a resistance narrative". Is this appropriate given that Offred herself is neither a member of the Mayday resistance movement nor an obvious social dissident?

    There is a network of the Marthas, then, with something in it for them." To all these rebellious acts there are of course consequences. Consequences such as being scolded, beaten, tortured, being exiled as an unwoman sent to live in the colonies, even death. Ofglen, who was part of the Mayday resistance, Serena who acquired cigarettes and the photo of Offred's daughter off the black market, the Commander who visited Jezebel's and Nick who formed a relationship with Offred, all of who resisted of their own accord, each with their own specific motive that drives them on. In fact there are very few individuals in the novel that obey the law of Gilead precisely.

    • Word count: 2263
  6. How does Atwood present the commander throughout "The Handmaid's Tale?"

    He knows it is against society yet still takes the risks, Offred describes their meeting as illegal but for her to 'refuse to see him could be worse, there is no doubt who holds the real power' The commander simply manipulates Offred into following his lead as she knows what could happen if she doesn't see him, by 'worse' she means she could be sent away and declared an unwoman or be placed on the wall. Differently than before, during their first visit the Commander is almost presented as a pitiable character.

    • Word count: 1106
  7. How is the character of Serena Joy presented in chapter 3?

    By referring to Serena before coming across her Atwood shows her as a distant and mysterious character, by not revealing too much about her. This gives the reader nothing to sympathise with her as she intimidates Offred and is presented as an unsympathetic character Serena's dialogue is also another indication of her power and how she intimidates Offred, The first time she is presented to the reader her first words are 'so you're the new one' these are not warm and inviting as you would expect from someone who is meeting someone for the first time.

    • Word count: 536
  8. 'Don't ever ask for the true story' - an examination of the narrative methods used in "Alias Grace" and "Affinity."

    (compare with affinity) DEVELOP: Alias Grace is divided into chapters as well as sections. Each section may have several chapters within it and at the beginning of each section there is a series of short extracts, such as newspaper articles, quotes from other books and information from punishment books from a penitentiary (1843) that Grace is admitted to. Affinity also possesses similar characteristics that cause the reader to feel more involved and provides the text with a realistic sensation. For example, a section of the text is entirely dedicated to displaying caption, expressing what may be a page in Selina's diary for 2nd September 1872.

    • Word count: 2783
  9. What is the importance of Nick in Margaret Atwood's 'Handmaid's tale'? Consider the ways in which the writer presents this character.

    Through the eyes of Offred we see Nick in a very sexy angle. Offred is attracted, fascinated and even afraid of Nick, of what he could be. He stands out too much, he is too 'casual' and 'not servile' enough considering his low social position. In a strictly defined society, he is an oddball, barely following the rules. Meanwhile the Commander compared to Nick is a very different proposition altogether. When he first appeared it was in their very first Ceremony.

    • Word count: 2410
  10. Discuss the use of the historical notes in the Handmaid's Tale.

    Atwood firstly uses the historical notes to make fun of academic conferences. This is obvious as the scholarly jargon is self-conscious and the humour extremely unfunny and complex. Therefore whilst amusing to the academics it is an instant off-putting for the reader which in turn outs him/her of the academics. Essentially all the reader wants to know is what happened to Offred and not if they are going on a fishing trip or not. These nature walks and fishing expeditions are mentioned briefly but purposefully at the beginning of the notes 'The fishing expedition will go forward.'

    • Word count: 1300
  11. Analyse the relationships between the characters in the Handmaids Tale.

    what have I done wrong." This quote shows how Offred feels before her first meeting with the Commander. The image of her standing outside the principles office gives me that impression that Offred feels nervous because she knows that the power isn't with her, the Commander is in control he can decide her fait which is why she feels nervous. We see how not all the power in this relationship is with the commander. He might have the social power and be able to decide the fate of Offred but still Offred has something the Commander wants, "I want you to kiss me," Kissing is forbidden between the Handmaids and Commanders.

    • Word count: 1148
  12. Comment on Atwood's use of imagery in chapters one to thirty-three of "The Handmaid's tale".

    This seems to be her way of protecting herself from having to think about the actual event, which she is describing because it may have been too painful for her to simply tell in full. Flowers are also a symbol of fertility so by using this flower imagery throughout her story, Offred could be making references to the great importance placed on fertility in the Gileadean society. Eggs are also mentioned in chapter two, which also occur later on in the novel because they are also a symbol of fertility.

    • Word count: 1764
  13. Stories and story telling has many purposes in 'The Handmaids Tale.' Discuss how and why Offred tells her stories.

    In chapter 7, Offred explains her storytelling as a survival tool "I would like to believe this is a story I'm telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance.... If it is a story I'm telling then have control over the ending, to the story, and real life will come after it." She explains that what she is telling is not a story but it is what is going through her head. She then explains how she can only 'tell' as writing is forbidden.

    • Word count: 810
  14. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood - Consider the way Atwood presents Professor Pieixoto's conference speech in the'Historical Notes'. What is the significance to the novel as a whole?

    The introduction to the main text of the notes is light, whilst prefacing the main speaker, along with the works for which he is recognised. The main work for which he is recognised is that entitled "Iran and Gilead: Two Late-Twentieth-Century Monotheocracies, as Seen Through Diaries", Iran being a country that imposed severe restrictions on the freedom of women and so has a direct link to Gilead. It is ironic that Iran and the United States are famous enemies yet impose similar restrictions upon their people.

    • Word count: 2395
  15. Margaret Atwood is a poet as well as a novelist. Comment on some of the recurring images used by Atwood in the novel.

    This refers to the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their handmaids who are required to bare children for them. It is repeated many times in the text, and there is a reminder of it in the name of the Rachel and Leah Centre and also in Offred's remark: 'Give me children, or else I die' (Chapter 11, page 71) There is also a long passage from the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:9-15): 'I will that women adorn themselves in modest apparel....'

    • Word count: 738
  16. Compare and contrast the presentation of the major female characters in the novel, including Offred, Ofglen, Moira, Serena Joy & Offred's mother.

    Offred seem to respond to events rather than encouraging them unlike her friend Moira. In many ways Offred would like to be more out of control like Moira but never finds the strength to be openly rebellious but would like to be. Offred yearns for communication with others and would like to be able to form close relationships. Her only freedom is the relationship she forms with The Commander. Her 'arrangement' with The Commander is in the form of games of Scrabble. It is here that Offred is her liveliest and most feminine. Offred is seem as a "two-legged womb", she is valued only for her potential as a surrogate mother for Serena Joy.

    • Word count: 1072
  17. The handmaids tale - Character development and contribution to the text as a whole.

    Chillingworth and the Commander are carefully intertwined into the novel in a similar fashion. The reader meets Chillingworth at Hester's most vulnerable stage as she stands on the scaffold revealing her scarlet letter for the first time. His real character and relationship with Hester is not spoken about immediately, as the author wants Chillingworth to remain dark and mysterious. Hester's reaction towards the "stranger" in the crowd holds the reader in suspense. He is also portrayed as mysterious because he is a newcomer to the town, his figure is disproportionate and his face is "a writhing horror", and he arrives with the Native Americans.

    • Word count: 963
  18. How does Atwood explore the theme of love in the novel 'The Handmaid's Tale'?

    Right through to the times where Offred was having an affair, with Luke, her present husband. Moira's love for Offred seems to come across as her guide and advisor, she is the one individual described by Offred as being a 'fantasy' and also by the other handmaid's. When Moira and Offred meet one another after a time of separation in the new regime Offred describes being 'ridiculously happy.' This immediately indicates to the reader, the fact that the friendship shared between these two women is so intense that even after a long separation they are 'still' excited and happy to see one another.

    • Word count: 1597
  19. How does Atwood present 'hope' in the novel 'The Handmaid's Tale'?

    Margaret Atwood initially presents 'hope' in the novel when the foremost character, Offred; is informing the readers of the method in which she is dressed, from head to toe in "red." Offred describes herself as being "...some fairytale figure in a red cloak." Immediately from this quotation the readers come to learn the fact that Offred is being presented as non other than the fairy tale figure of Red Riding Hood, the sweet, innocent young girl, out in the big bad world, alone.

    • Word count: 1871
  20. Explore the significance of the Historical Notes in light of the rest of the novel.

    The truth that Offred recorded her story on tapes suggests that Nick did help Offred to escape Gilead. This is when we see that Nick was a good character and makes us feel good that he was a male within a society run by men who helped the women. We also assume that he may have rescued other women in the ommanders house hold. However it is also made aparant to us by Professor Piexoto that Nick may have been saving Offred for his own safety, as we know that 'The penalties for unauthorized s****l activity with a Handmaid were severe'.

    • Word count: 1175
  21. Do you think the commander is a sympathetic or corrupt character with in the book?

    Is he just acting to make Offred like him? We don't know. He asks her to play scrabble. Fairly innocent. However at the end of the evening he says 'I want you to kiss me' which shows us his corrupt. It as if he entered Offred into a secret deal, scrabble in exchange for the kiss, which of course she has no say in. 'Staring at the magazine, as he dangled it before me, like fish bait.' He knows how valuable this magazine is to Offred but I feel that he likes to watch her hunger for the things she wants.

    • Word count: 1381
  22. How far do you agree that Atwood has created not a real person but a mouthpiece for her ideas in the characterisation of Offred?

    These images create emotion and a real person of Offred as Atwood establishes an emotional quality in her and thus makes the reader believe her to be real. This is also due to the past that Atwood establishes for Offred which gives her an identity and recognisable individuality. It can be seen by the way in which Offred talks about her daughter that she is extremely important and she is a great emotional significance in her life; "My treasure...A shadow of a shadow, as dead mothers become.

    • Word count: 1219
  23. The Handmaid's Tale is a powerful story of relationships.

    This little amount of power gives the Aunts the feeling that they are superior to the other women in the society; it also allows them to thrust their views and opinions upon the handmaids supposedly caring for. The aunts are also very confident within themselves and the position that they hold within Gilead. This can be seen in Chapter 43 when the salvaging takes place and one the Aunts is able to control a whole group of handmaids at the blow of a whistle, ordering them to kill someone.

    • Word count: 1425
  24. The Commander's Wife, Serena worked in pre-Gilead days as a gospel singer, then as an anti-feminist activist and crusader for "traditional values."

    The climactic moment in Serena's interaction with Offred comes when she arranges for Offred to sleep with Nick. It seems that Serena makes these plans out of a desire to help Offred get pregnant, but Serena gets an equal reward from Offred's pregnancy: she gets to raise the baby. Furthermore, Serena's offer to show Offred a picture of her lost daughter if she sleeps with Nick reveals that Serena has always known of Offred's daughter's whereabouts. Not only has she cruelly concealed this knowledge, she is willing to exploit Offred's loss of a child in order to get an infant of her own.

    • Word count: 1634
  25. How does the Handmaids Tale address the issues of social examination?

    The antics of totalitarian leader Stalin have been duplicated through the rise of Sadham Hussein, something that governments and communities would have never expected to have seen again but it was allowed to happen, this is just one example of political errors that is comparable with the regime in Gilead which Offred is scrutinizing. The Handmaids Tale is on a par with George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "A brave new world" it follows in there dystopian themes and character similarities are evident, however, The Handmaids Tale is a feminist book and the repression focused on its primarily received by women.

    • Word count: 847

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