- What kinds of activities used to take place in the gymnasium?
- How was the women’s stay in the gymnasium similar to being in a prison? How was it different?
- Why did the women want the Angels (male guards) to see them?
- How did the women manage to learn each other’s names?
- Why is the first chapter written in the past tense, and the second chapter in the present tense?
- There is no way to escape from Offred’s room. Make a brief list of the features of the room which are there to prevent everything from running away to suicide.
- Describe Offred’s uniform.
- Rita and Cora are “Marthas”, or servants whose job it is to do the housework. Offred overhears them gossiping about her behind her back. What is their attitude toward Offred, and what do they say about her role in the house?
- For grocery (food) shopping, tokens are used instead of money. Why are there pictures on the tokens, instead of words?
- 1. What does the Commander's Wife fill her days doing?
- Find out what the word "palimpsest" means (it appears on page one in the text). In what way is the gym like a palimpsest?
- The red color of the uniform worn by the handmaids is highly symbolic. Discuss the possible references it could have to the following: blood - fertility - adultery/sinfulness - Little Red Riding Hood.
- There is no female companionship among the women in the house. Why do you think friendly relationships between women are discouraged?
- In this excerpt, we learn that "Unwomen" are sent to the Colonies (radioactive areas where their job is to handle toxic waste). The Marthas spend their days doing housework, while the Commander's Wife tends her garden and knits. Aunt Lydia tells Offred to consider her situation "not a prison, but a privilege". In your opinion, is Offred better or worse off than the other women? What does she seem to think herself? Explain.
Watch the film "The Handmaid's Tale" (1990) which is based on Atwood's novel. The screenplay is written by the famous British playwright and author Harold Pinter. Note that the protagonist Offred is called Kate in the film.
One of the opening scenes portrays Kate as she and her family are trying to escape to Canada. After witnessing the murder of her husband and the abduction of her daughter, Kate is captured and becomes a concubine for the Commander. In Gilead he is extremely privileged and is responsible for the strict totalitarian regime in the republic. She is soon entangled in the web of the Commander and Serena Joy, his wife dressed in blue.
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