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a book by Margaret Atwood


the origins of the handmaid's tale

8. Cultural contexts

inspired Margaret Atwood

7. The 1980S rise of the conservatism religious right in the USA

6. People of Hope

3. Political context

5. Anti-feminism blacklash

4. Environment issues

2. Specific events that

1. The writing process


dictatorship and their functions

dystopian literature

17th and 18th century America

  • book finally came out in the United Kingdom, in 1986
3 important things that inspired her :

I chose to not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time

  • she went to Canada, Galiano Island and Alabama
  • she began the book in 1984,
in West Berlin

During the writing process

Mayday: secret group that tried to take down the government

Female Circumcision: mutilation of the female anatomy

Homosexuality was illegal: they were killed and hung on walls

Forced Surrogacy: polygamy was a common practice

Theonomy: society run by religion

Mandatory Dress Codes: uniforms to identify the population rank

Stealing Children: children were taken away and given to others

Slave Names: handmaid couldn't keep their real name

Women Forbidden to Work: not allowed to work and earn money except if they were prostitutes

Canadian Birth Rates and Immigration: infertility cause by the work force

Prisoners Cleaning Radiation: lesbians, feminists were forced to clean up radioactive materials -> work themselves to death

Decree 770: in Romania, a 1967 law banned abortion and contraception

Specific events that inspired Margaret Atwood

Phyllis Schlifly, an anti-feminist with the same vision as Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan's presidency is often remembered as a dificult period for american women
However he failed once in the White House to advance this anti-feminist agenda as American society was much more open-minded than its president on such issues.
women belong to the private and domestic sphere
men belong to the professional world
for Ronald Reagan
A traditional vision of the relationship between men and women :
His political career coincided with the emergence and the first sucess of the feminist movement in the US

The Handmaid's Tale and its political context

Ronald Reagan : american president first elected in 1966

one reason a woman gets married is to be supported by her husband while caring for their children at home "

In The Handmaid's Tale, a lot of women cannot be pregnant.This is one of the many consequences of the pollution over the time.Margaret Atwood denounces the non action of the government.
...about the unfertility
And this consern about the effect of pollution inspired Margaret Atwood for her book...
Society starts to contest the air and water pollution issues starting from 1970s
The first Earth day was the 22 of April
The Handmaid's Tale and the environment
women's rights are humain's rights
Despite the election of the foe of abortion and reproduction rights, women were still determined to fight for they rights and be as respected as men.
1960s, women start to demand aquality
"feminism" = created in the 19th century to describe women of the political left who sought to extended the conversation beyond suffrage

anti-feminism blacklash

the book take up this idea !!
Margaret Atwood describes them as a catholics cult which wants to attack birth control and voluntary sterilisation. They used to brainwash women and make them like slaves to do arranged marriages, discourage them to have any social contacts with non-members. The People of Hope even used to use chemicals to make women unfertile.

the people of hope

Although these issues often appeal to fundamentalists of other religions most of the recent leaders of this movement have been evangelical Christians
  • restore prayer in public school
  • to invalide abortion on demand
  • to prohibit state recognition of same-sex
The religious right is a political movement, prominent since the 1970s, that advocates social and political conservatism.Its agenda often includes attempts to :
The 1980S rise of the conservatism religious right in the USA
US is defined as a pollued place with terrible wars. and a class system based on fertility with partiarchal power
In the book Canada is defined as a safe place with relative equality
David Staines
Perhaps only a Canadian, a neighbour as well as an outsider to the US, could create sush an unsettling vision of the American future.

Margaret Atwood used a new "Canadian style of literature"

She also generalize the theme of the novel for all locations : US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia ...

Cultural contexts

She used The Republic of Gilead to represent the USA

project realised by: - Océane Lefeuvre - Charlotte Barrou- Maïa Penot

the end !