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Handmaid’s Tale, A Woman’s Place

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel of the same name, tells the story of Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship ruled by a patriarchal cohort of commanders who use Old Testament scripture to justify a culture that silences women and recognizes them solely as breeding stock. In this scene, Offred, the main character, is introduced to a foreign dignitary, Ambassador Castillo, who seeks information about her way of life. Under the eye of the Commander (her master, Fred) and the other leaders of Gilead, Offred lies, indicating that she has chosen this path and is happy. In the next scene, Ambassador Castillo singles out Fred’s wife, Serena, asking about a treatise Serena had written in the pre-Gilead days called A Woman’s Place. Serena defends her current role and the sacrifices God has asked for.

discussion

At first, Offred assumes one of the men in the delegation party is the Ambassador. What does this assumption reveal about Gilead?

Why does Offred no longer use her given name? How does her new name relate to her “sacred position” as a handmaid?

How are Gilead’s traditional values tied to traditional gender roles?

While Atwood’s novel and Hulu’s production are science fiction, how do they also reference (and critique) real political and cultural debates around women’s bodies and women’s rights?