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Chapters 1-40

1)Within the first two chapters, what hints does the narrator drop to reveal the limitations of womens
rights in this society?
Some hints that show the limits put on women in this society is that they cannot wear what they want. They wear
shapeless red gowns and winged caps that stop them being seen and seeing others. They seem to be almost owned, they
are kept in a single room with no free will and they are used as surrogates through the use of rape.

2)How does Attwood convey the risk of suicide in this society? Does the threat of suicide seem likely
She conveys the risk of suicide by the set up of her room. The glass on the window is shatterproof, there is no glass
in her picture and there is nothing hanging from the ceiling. There is even a spot where a chandelier once hung. The
shatterproof glass means she cannot open and jump out the window, the lack of glass in the frames means she cannot cut
herself and there is nothing from which she can hang herself. The threat seems very likely because Offred is unhappy,
trapped and depressed and escaping is not an option.

5)What symbolic role does the color red play in the novel?
The color red stands for fertility and a woman's menstrual cycle and how these are the only things women are
valued for in Gilead.

12)What role does envy play among the women in Gilead? Is envy as prevalent among people you know?
The handmaidens get very jealous of one and another when one of them gets pregnant. Besides the fact that this
is very hard to do in their world it is the primary reason for their existence. It is a big deal when it happens because it is so
rare. It is an honor and a miracle; this makes them untouchable and secure for the few months that follow the birth. In a
world where they have nothing, this pampering is their only time of rest they get. Another example of jealousy is the wives
being jealous of the handmaidens. It cant be easy to not fulfill the task of becoming a mother in Gilead. It also cant be
easy seeing your husband have sex with another women. Serena brings this up to Offred when she tells her that the

15)What is the Salvation that the doctor offers Offred? Should she be considering this opportunity?
Why or why not?
The doctor offers to impregnate her saying that the Commander is probably sterile and this is her only option. At
this point I think it is a last resort she should take. Getting pregnant would make her life easier, people would be off her
back and she would be of value. It would also ensure a safer future for her and a better option that being sent to the

16)To what extent if any today are rape victims today held responsible or to blame?
I think a lot of rape victims today are blamed for the rape. Too often courts believe that the victim was asking for
it by the way they dressed or behaved. Many victims of rape are shamed by our society and therefore do not seek help. If
their perpetrator is seen to be a favored character (star athlete, wealthy, successful, etc) this is often held up as a reason
why he could not have been capable of rape. In a way the odds are often stacked against the victim as they get shut down
and are considered in some way, shape or form to blame.
3) Following the Ceremony, Offred questions, Which of us is it worse for, [Serena Joy] or me? (95).
What do you think? Who is it worse for? Why?
I think Offred sees that Serena Joy is very unhappy in her life and thinks the situation if worse for her because she
cant have her own children, she has to watch her husband have sex with another women because of this. She is disgraced
by Gilead society, which values women only for her fertility. I think Offred also pities her as Serena Joy once had a life but
now subscribes to the women at home and has little purpose. I, on the other hands, think that Offred has it much worse.
Not only has she lost her husband, child and the life they created together, she is now imprisoned - physically and
emotionally in a world where she is almost invisible.. She has no rights and has been forced to play the role of a
surrogate without her consent, in other words she is regularly raped.

4)According to Offreds beliefs, what are Lukes three possible fates? Which of these fates seems most
plausible, given what you know of Gilead? Explain.
Lukes three possible fates are that he could be dead, imprisoned somewhere and being tortured or safely across
the border trying to get a message to her. It is most plausible that he has been captured because Gilead wants to extract

6)What unexpected request does the Commander make of Offred? Why is this such a risky activity for
both of them?
Offreds mother is a radical feminist and its ironic because Gilead is the complete opposite. In this society women
have no rights and no voice and certainly are not entitled to their own opinions. Offreds mother believed in womens
independence, equality and freedom from men. She was the polar opposite of how women in Gilead are expected to

7)Discuss Offreds anecdote about the historical documentary. What parallels exist between this
womans situation and Offreds own?
Gileads birthing rituals celebrate the wife over the surrogate. The wifes friends throw her a party and massage
her body and take part in fake breathing exercises used in birth. At the same time, the handmaiden is in labor upstairs
surrounded by handmaidens as they coach her and help through natural childbirth. The handmaiden is given no drugs
and no doctors are in the room, but they are outside on call if needed. Minutes before the baby is born, the wife sits
behind the handmaiden and pretends to push out the baby. Today childbirth often involves both parents being present,
they normally happen in hospital and medication is available. Some people hire midwives, which is similar to the
handmaidens experience, but husbands or partners are usually present. Today friends and family throw parties or
showers for the mother before the baby is due, in the novel there was no party for the handmaiden and none of her family
was present. Her only support was the other handmaidens.

1)What significance does the reading material the Commander provides have for Offred?
The significance of the Commander giving Offred reading material shows us a few things. Firstly, it shows us that
he is interested in Offreds opinions on things and it means they have become informal together. Secondly, it could be seen
as an act of kindness and that he needs to have a human connection with her, something he lacks with his wife. And
thirdly, it shows us that a as man of power he is also prepared to break the rules because he can get away with it or maybe
hes beginning to question them.

5)What is the meaning of Nolite te bastardes carborundorum?

This means dont let the bastards grind you down.

7) What is the nature of Offreds first real conversation with Serena Joy? What does Serena Joy suggest?
Why do you think she makes this suggestion?
Serena Joy realizes that its taking Offred too long to get pregnant which suggests that the Commander is sterile.
However criticizing him would be out of the question. Serena Joy desperately wants a baby as she has nothing else to do
with her time and Gilead society places a lot of emphasis on motherhood. Because of this she mention to Offred that she
should sleep with Nick, the family driver. She trusts Nick and she will do anything to get a baby at this point.

8)What happened to Offreds predecessor? What foreshadowing has Atwood provided to indicate this?
Offreds predecessor hung herself from her bedroom chandelier because she found her life unbearable. Atwood
foreshadows this by describing the plaster shadow on the ceiling where a chandelier once and describing it as many
different things when Offred looks into it.

10)In what ways does Atwood draw upon Biblical text throughout The Handmaids Tale? Why do you
think she uses so many Biblical references? What is the effect of these allusions on the reader?
Offreds predecessor hung herself from her bedroom chandelier because she found her life unbearable. Atwood
foreshadows this by describing the plaster shadow on the ceiling where a chandelier once and describing it as many
different things when Offred looks into it.
1)What can be purchased on the black market in Gilead? Are these illegal purchases similar to items
purchased illegally in the U.S. today?
There are references to cigarettes, hair dye and magazines as black market goods in Gilead. Even though there is no real
money in Gilead people are still managing to exchange goods for illegal ones. Today we hear about endangered animals
being bought and sold on the black market as well as human trafficking. There is always a black market for anything illegal
drugs and also probably cigarettes with no taxes.

2)How does the Commander justify the existence of Jezebels? Analyze his argument.
The existence of Jezebels shows how hypocritical the Gilead society is On the one hand the men talk about sexual
morality and then in the evening they are spending time with Jezebels which is their name for prostitutes. As with all
other women in Gilead, they are referred to by this title and not their personal name. The Commander justifies the
existence of Jezebels saying its mans nature to have many sexual partners: Nature demands variety, for men. It stands
to reason, it's a part of the procreational strategy. It's Nature's Plan (p237). Even though this goes against Gilead beliefs
the Commander is using men needing a variety of partners to justify them seeing Jezebels. It is insulting to women at
worst and a weak argument at best. As with many themes in the book it is another example of men cutting the cloth to fit
their needs.

5)Discuss the narrators tone throughout the novel. Is this tone constant? Does it change at certain points
in the narrative? Explain.
The narrators tone is without emotion and fact based. Living in Gilead is not pleasant and so the narrator just
tells it like it is. There is no need to sugar coat anything; what you see if what you get. Even the wealthy wives are unhappy,
in fact it does not seem as though anyone living in Gilead is happy, some people just have an easier time than others.
Offred, our narrator, has had everything taken away from her and she has been forced to play the role of handmaiden. Her
descriptions are almost flat. I imagine this is because her life is so depressing that to brighten up her tone would be doing
her wrong and giving the reader false hopes that better things are coming.

7)What is the significance of womens names in Gilead? What about womens names in our own society?
Womens names in Gilead reflect the roles they are given. Men are able to address them, as they need them. For
example, Marthas are called upon when something needs to be cooked or cleaned. Handmaidens are specifically used
surrogates and Jezebels are prostitutes. Their original names have been stripped from them as well as their identity. They
are simply known by the task that they do in Gilead. In our own society, womens names are personal to us and are part of
our identity. We shorten or lengthen our names to show affection and familiarity.