The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Notes on The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. This set of Tower Notes is 113 pages long and is sold as a fully illustrated PDF file with footnotes.

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A free sample, text only, is provided below covering the first eleven chapters of the novel.

INTRODUCTION:
ROMANTIC LOVE IN THE HANDMAID’S TALE .
Page references are to the Seal Books (Toronto) 1986 edition.
The Handmaid’s Tale can be read as a dystopian novel; from a feminist perspective; as a work of satire: there are, in fact, many valid approaches to what is a complex and thought-provoking work of fiction. However, like its older brother in the dystopian genre – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – it also has much to say on the subject of romantic love, an aspect of the novel that has only rarely been the focus of extended critical attention. While it would be misleading to talk of The Handmaid’s Tale as having a ‘love story at its core’ or any such thing, the theme of romance is nevertheless woven into this text from beginning to end, and is far from being an incidental feature. Offred’s own character arc, for example, would not be without precedent in the genre of romantic fiction: she has a tragic past in her love for Luke – her husband, whose whereabouts are unknown and who may well be dead; midway through the novel she becomes involved with a much older, married man, a powerful and manipulative figure for whom she feels no real affection; finally, she experiences a sense of freedom and satisfaction in a passionate relationship with a mysterious ‘man made of darkness’ (40:245) with whom she conceives a child and who allows her to escape to a new life, apparently at considerable risk to himself.

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