Feb 20th Discussion


The Handmaid’s Tale

Girl Interrupted


The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Consider how The Handmaid’s Tale discusses race.
    1. For reference it was written in 1985 and this was the racial breakdown of America in 1980:

Race/Ethnic Group

1980 Percent
Total Population 226,545,805
White 188,371,622 83.15%
Black 26,495,025 11.70%
American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut 1,420,400 0.63%
Asian and Pacific Islander 3,500,439 1.55%
Some other race 6,758,319 2.98%
Two or more races 0.00%
Hispanic (of any race) 14,608,673 6.45%

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_racial_and_ethnic_demographics_of_the_United_States

  1. How do you think female characters help maintain the patriarchal society of Gilead? Why do you think these characters are willing to sacrifice members of the same gender? Do you think this happens in our world? Discuss specifically:
    1. Serena Joy
    2. Aunt Lydia
  2. Compare and contrast the female roles in the book.
    1. Maternal – Aunts, Marthas
    2. Property – Handmaids
    3. Wives and Econowives
    4. Unwomen

Girl, Interrupted (Second Half)

  1. Kasen has numerous obsessions that she deals with throughout the book. Compare and contrast them with each other and other obsessions we have read about (ex: The Yellow Wallpaper)
    1. How much time it took to remove abscess
    2. Hospitals tunnels
    3. Bones in her hands
  2. Kasen faces discrimination from her time spent at 115 Mill Street and how infamous it was as a destination for the mentally disturbed. It affected her chances to get a job, and the stigma has followed her. How has the stigma of mental illness changed or continued in the years since her admission to McLean?
  3. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has a portion about borderline personality disorder. It outlines guidelines as to what features a person with the disorder will exhibit. How does it relate to the things Kasen describes? How does it compare with a more “chemical” condition like bipolar disorder?  What about the gender disparities in diagnosis? Talk about Kasen’s reactions to these descriptions.