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Free Handmaid’s Tale Essays: Life and Times of Margaret Atwood

The Life and Times of Margaret Atwood

Three Sources Cited Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 18, 1939. She lived in a cabin in the Canadian wilderness for most of her childhood (her father was a forest entomologist), and that is where she gained her love for books and reading – probably from boredom. She also took up writing during this time, at the age of six (Margaret Atwood). Sshe came to want ot be a writer her senior year in high school when she says, “all of a sudden a big thumb came out of the sky and touched my head and a poem was formed.” Who would have thought that the young girl who lived in the woods would grow to become a prominent female writer and poet? Atwood went on to attend Victoria College at the University of Toronto. She received a bachelor’s degree there in 1961 and went on to receive her Master’s from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. In addition, she attended Harvard University in 1962 – 63 and 1965 – 67 (Information Page). When she made the decision to be a writer she said she wanted to “lead a double life. (Margaret Atwood). This double life would include going “places I haven’t been; to examine life on earth; to come to know people in ways, and at depths, that are otherwise impossible; to be surprised…to give back something of what [I have] received,” said Atwood (Margaret Atwood). She certainly achieved this goal of a double life. Atwood managed to live many places around the world in order to “examine life on earth.” Here is a time line of the places she lived during certain years of her life.

1939 – 1945: Ottawa 1945: Sault Ste. Marie 1946 – 1961: Toronto 1961 – 1963: Boston 1963 – 1964: Toronto 1964 – 1965: Vancouver 1965 – 1967: Boston 1967 – 1968: Montreal 1968 – 1970: Edmonton 1970 – 1971: England (London), France, Italy 1971 – 1972: Toronto 1973 – 1980: Alliston, Ontario 1980 – 1983: Toronto 1983 – 1984: England, Germany 1985: Alabama 1986 – 1991: Toronto 1992: France 1992 – Present: Toronto

As is evident, she liked to move around a lot and to see different people and different things (Information Page).

Although Atwood would have preferred to stay home and write all day she did have a number of jobs over the years.

Essay on A Society of Oppression in A Handmaid’s Tale

A Society of Oppression in A Handmaid’s Tale

As the saying goes, ‘history repeats itself.’ If one of the goals of Margaret Atwood was to prove this particular point, she certainly succeeded in her novel A Handmaid’s Tale. In her Note to the Reader, she writes, ” The thing to remember is that there is nothing new about the society depicted in The Handmaiden’s Tale except the time and place. All of the things I have written about …have been done before, more than once…” (316). Atwood seems to choose only the most threatening, frightening, and atrocious events in history to parallel her book by–specifically the enslavement of African Americans in the United States. She traces the development of this institution, but from the perspective of a different group of oppressed people: women.

Like the institution of slavery, women in Gilead were enslaved through biblical justifications. According to the Commanders, God intended the ultimate power to be in the hands of man, not only because man was created first, but also because it was woman’s temptation that expelled them both from the Garden of Eden. Women, therefor, must be controlled by man. Slave traders and owners also justified the enslavement of Africans, arguing that slave labor existed extensively in the Bible (Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians, for example), and therefor God did not condemn the institution. Once a master acquires slaves, or a Handmaid, he must rule over them effectively, to assure that they will meet his needs. To so, the term “human” must be taken out of consideration (for that may evoke some sort of pity or compassion) and replaced with the term “it”–detonating property. This is clearly demonstrated when Offred reflects on the …

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…at the top of the underground railroad…Canada’s position would be to do what she always does: try to remain neutral without antagonizing the superpower to the south,” (320).

After reading The Handmaid’s Tale, one may conclude that Margaret Atwood is not simply feeding her readers history, but rather warning them of our future. We may, for example, see modern day oppression in homosexuals. Various religious groups doom them to Hell, rights are taken away from them (the right to marry, for example)…the list goes on. As Atwood says of The Handmaid’s Tale, “The novel exists for social examination…” (316). One can only hope that our history of social oppression will cease to repeat itself if only we can learn from the past.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1986.

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