Publication Date

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English and Comparative Literature

Abstract

While there is plenty of traditional feminist critique of male power structures in Atwood's works, and particularly in The Handmaid's Tale, this thesis argues that the power structure of Gilead (the biblically-inflected nation Atwood imagines) also critiques the feminine roles that support and enable the repression of other women. Placing the novel in the contexts of Atwood's career, feminism, and dystopian literature, provides a fuller understanding of how the novel functions as an expression of the disunity of women.

Thus, this thesis turns the focus of The Handmaid's Tale from the consequences of patriarchal control and "traditional" misogyny, to the matriarchal network, and a new form of misogyny: women's hatred of women. Read thusly, The Handmaid's Tale becomes a prophetic call to action.