Feb 22th Discussion


The Handmaid’s Tale (Chapters 1-23)


  1. Please discuss the significance of following symbols Atwood uses throughout the novel
  2. Flowers (flowers on Serena’s bed canopy, flowers described as “the genital organs of plants”, etc.)
  3. Ships (big-bellied sails compared to pregnant physiques, “propelled forward by swollen belly”, household described like an empty ship’s cargo hold, etc.)
  4. What is the significance of men being referred to as “they”?
  5. Consider Offred’s question at the end of the “Ceremony”. Which of them is it worse for, Serena or Offred?
  6. Why did Gilead ban women (except Aunts) from reading and writing? How could these practices be construed as sinful?
  7. What is the significance of infantilizing Handmaids? Is this the result of power-hungry authority attitudes (Aunts) or does it serve a more “practical” purpose in this society?
  8. What similarities do we see in the restrictions placed upon the women in The Handmaid’s Tale and Jane from The Yellow Wallpaper?
  9. What similarities do Offred and Jane share? Differences?
  10. What societal conditions did Atwood write about that hold true today?
  11. In Gilead, women’s medicine and sexuality is used to push the political agenda. This was seen in the execution of doctors who performed legal abortions prior to Gilead and in the absence of doctors on the Birth Days (unless absolutely necessary). What are some present-day examples of where medicine is used in politics?