“The Handmaid’s    Tale”: Tutorial Presentation
8K - views

“The Handmaid’s Tale”: Tutorial Presentation

Similar presentations

Download Presentation

“The Handmaid’s Tale”: Tutorial Presentation

Download Presentation - The PPT/PDF document "“The Handmaid’s Tale”: Tutorial..." is the property of its rightful owner. Permission is granted to download and print the materials on this web site for personal, non-commercial use only, and to display it on your personal computer provided you do not modify the materials and that you retain all copyright notices contained in the materials. By downloading content from our website, you accept the terms of this agreement.

Presentation on theme: "“The Handmaid’s Tale”: Tutorial Presentation"— Presentation transcript:


“The Handmaid’s Tale”: Tutorial Presentation

By Caitlin owens


What links all of these texts together?


The strength of a story rests in its connection to others that have preceded it. Defend your response to this idea with a close study of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Bible

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte



Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell


The Bible

Try to come up with as many examples of Biblical reference within the novel as possible.



The Bible- Gilead

Gilead was a plentiful city which was famous for its “balm”, which had special healing properties.

A famous symbol of health and well-being.

In the novel, the streets are empty, and a large percentage of the population have been sterilised due to radiation poisoning.

Irony used here represents the hypocrisy of the totalitarian government.

“Then there’s a long prayer, about unworthy vessels, then a hymn: “There is a Balm in Gilead.”

“There is a Bomb in Gilead,” was what Moira used to call it.” (p.230)Just as the “balm” is an ointment with spectacular healing properties, a “bomb” is the complete antithesis of this, being a weapon which causes mass destruction and death.


The Bible- Rachel Story

“And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die…And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her, and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.” Genesis, 30:1-3

The reason why the government believes that they can use fertile women as substitute “carriers”

They do not mention the fact that God also condemns adultery


The Bible- Hypocrisy

“For lunch it was the Beatitudes. Blessed be this, blessed be that. They played it from a tape, so not even an Aunt would be guilty of the sin of reading. The voice was a man’s. Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the silent. I knew they made that up, I knew it was wrong, and they left things out too, but there was no way of checking.” (P.100)

By putting the handmaids at a disadvantage, they are able to twist and warp the Bible in whichever way they like.


The Bible- False Faith versus Real Faith

For the Commanders and their wives, faith and prayer are seen merely as ways of furthering their own success.

“Ordering prayers from Souls Scrolls is supposed to be a sign of piety and faithfulness to the regime, so of course the Commander’s Wives do it a lot. It helps their husbands’ careers...You pick the one you want, punch in the number, then punch in your own number so your account will be debited, and punch in the number of times you want the prayer repeated…Once the prayers have been printed out and said, the paper rolls back through another slot and is recycled into fresh paper again. There are no people inside the building: the machines run by themselves.” (P.176)

No need to engage in prayer for themselves.

By using a lifeless machine to “pray” for them, the value of religion and prayer is lost.


The Bible- False Faith versus Real Faith



is the person who shows real faith by making personal prayers.

“I have enough daily bread, so I won’t waste time on that. It isn’t the main problem. The problem is getting it down without choking on it…You might even provide a Heaven for them. We need You for that. Hell we can make for ourselves.” (P.204- 205)

Offred’s stark contrast with those in charge, who merely claim to pray and be faithful, is important, as it demonstrates her authentic faith in comparison to their artificial religion, therefore conveying their hypocrisy as a state.


Jane Eyre

Come up with as many links between “Jane Eyre” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” as possible.



Jane Eyre- The Colour Red

The Red-Room from Jane Eyre is a famous symbol of the suppression of desire.

The red-room acts as a place where Jane both allows her passion to be unrestrained and learns that there should be a balance between suppression and freedom.

Atwood takes inspiration from Jane Eyre and uses the colour red as a symbol of


sexual slavery. “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the sleeves are full.” (P.18)

The Handmaids cannot escape their dictated roles within society. Their use is what surrounds and “defines” them.Atwood, like

Brontë, uses the colour in an ironic way because Offred and the other Handmaid’s are not permitted to show love or passion for anyone.


Jane Eyre- The Colour Red

This is explored further when Moira arrives at the Red Centre:

“She still had her other clothes on, jeans and a blue sweatshirt…The Aunts took her to a vacant bed where the red dress was already laid out.” (P.80-81)

Moira is still in her own clothes when she arrives- symbolic of her free spirit.

Her being led to the red dress symbolises the journey into suppression that she will eventually be made to follow as well.

Moira’s destiny, as well as Offred’s, has already been decided by the state.


Jane Eyre- Bertha/Janine

Like Bertha, Janine has deteriorating mental health.


Jane Eyre

, Bertha roams the corridors at night, setting fires to various parts of the house. Jane describes her as animalistic, stating that:“What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal” (P.258)

Whilst in the Red Centre, Offred

describes an episode which Janine suffers due to a mental breakdown:“I was looking at Janine. Her eyes were open, but they didn’t see me at all. They were rounded, wide, and her teeth were bared in a fixed smile. Through the smile, through her teeth, she was whispering to herself.” (P.228)


Jane Eyre- Bertha/Janine

Janine struggles to accept her situation and therefore loses control over her emotions, which manifests itself in hallucinations, and eventually violence during the “Salvaging”:

“Hi there,’ she says. ‘How are you doing?’ She’s holding something, tightly, in her right hand. It’s a clump of blond hair. She gives a small giggle. ‘Janine,’ I say. But she’s let go, totally now, she’s in free fall, she’s in withdrawal.” (P.292)

In Jane Eyre, Bertha is used as a symbol of the consequences of uncontrolled passion.

Like Janine,


has lost a child and has trouble coming to terms with her loss:“I take it from her, turn it around so I can see it right-side-up. Is this her, is this what she’s like? My treasure…Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of the sand, left by a careless child too near the water…I can’t bear it, to have been erased like that. Better that she’d brought me nothing.” (P.240)

“It’s her second,’


says. ‘Not counting her own, before. She had an eighth-month miscarriage, didn’t you know?’…’She thinks it’s her fault,’


whispers. ‘Two in a row.” (P.227)


Jane Eyre- Bertha/Janine

She also struggles to accept the society in which she lives, and is trying to make the best of her situation by doing her job.

In addition to this, neither women are successful in bearing children in this society.

“Her body under the red dress looks very thin, skinny almost, and she’s lost that pregnant glow. Her face is white and peaked, as if the juice is being sucked out of her.

‘It was no good, you know,’

Ofglen says near the side of my head. ‘It

was a shredder after all.’” (P.226)


Jane Eyre- Bertha/Janine

Finally, both women struggle to separate the past and the present.

“But the night is my time out. Where should I go?” (P.47)

Despite being more in control of her flashbacks than Janine,

Offred still shares the inability to live fully in the present

These links between Janine and Offred mirror the “doppelganger” theory which centres around Jane, the sane narrator, and Bertha, the unhinged madwoman, in Jane Eyre. Jane, as shown by her descriptions of Bertha as an “it”.

The prejudices of both women have been said to be linked to their shared fear of becoming like their mad doppelgangers.


Nineteen Eighty-Four

This novel is one of the most famous in the dystopian genre.

The first link between the two novels is the depiction of the importance of language and literature.

In 1984, the Party creates a language called “Newspeak”, in which the aim is to limit language so that it is no longer possible for the public to think rebellious thoughts.

For example, the crime of rebelling against the Party, outwardly or even inwardly, is called “thoughtcrime”, and a person who has been caught by the Party and as a result will be killed and removed from all records, is called an “


”.Does the last one sound familiar to anything in The Handmaid’s Tale”?


Nineteen Eighty Four- Language

The word “


” , is a direct mimic of Orwell’s use of Newspeak in 1984.

As the term “unbaby” is so similar to Orwell’s Newspeak, it allows the reader to truly appreciate the gravity of the actions of the government, as 1984 is such a famous and bleak novel about totalitarianism.

“Blessed be the fruit,’ she says to me, the accepted greeting among us.

‘May the Lord open,’ I answer, the accepted response.” (P.29)These greetings are used to allow handmaids to spot whether another handmaid is a “true believer”, as Offred

states moments later:“The truth is that she is my spy, and I am hers. If either of us slips through the net because of something that happens on one of our daily walks, the other will be accountable.” (P.29)



Nineteen Eighty-Four- Worship

In 1984, for example, the government recognises that by banning sex and close personal relationships, their citizens will have a lot of surplus energy and frustration which they can channel towards a love of their representative Big Brother.

Winston tries to keep a distance from this by keeping a diary in which he writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” several times.


recognises a world around her which has been twisted by the principles of the

The Bible , using worship as a way to control citizens. This is made clear at the Red Centre:

 "The Republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you" (P.33)Gilead is not only trying to create complicit citizens, but citizens who fully support and even love the government and the society in which they are a part.

By stating that the society is “within” the handmaid’s, Aunt Lydia is implying that the government is omniscient and all-knowing, just as Big Brother was in 1984.


Nineteen Eighty-Four- Ending

Both texts end with some sort of appendix, in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale the Historical notes.

In 1984, the ending of the novel composes on a written piece on the main grammatical rules of Newspeak.

Gives us an invaluable indication on the fate of the totalitarian government. Atwood herself stated in an interview:

“[T]he essay on Newspeak is written in standard English, in the third person, and in the past tense, which can only mean that the regime has fallen, and that language and individuality have survived. For whoever has written the essay on Newspeak, the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is over. Thus, it's my view that Orwell had much more faith in the resilience of the human spirit than he's usually been given credit for.”


Nineteen Eighty-Four- Ending

The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale can therefore be said to be very similar, with the society of Gilead being examined by a future society just as Newspeak was being examined in the future.

And although Atwood’s historical notes being slightly more cynical, they still end showing that the regime has not lasted forever, just as Orwell’s did.

This could show that despite Atwood’s seemingly pessimistic outlook on the human condition, she still believes, like Orwell, that the human spirit and longing for freedom will always win.



These texts have had a positive impact on the strength of Atwood’s storytelling.

However, I don’t believe that the full strength of Atwood’s story rests on the influence of others.

Atwood has created a unique and interesting world, and these other influences have merely added to a message that was already very strong.

Does anyone have any questions?