Margaret Atwood was born on the eighteenth of November, 1939, the daughter of a forest entomologist. She
traveled for much of her childhood between the wilderness of Northern Ontario and the capital, Ottowa. Atwood
went to high school in Toronto, majoring in home economics, but at the age of sixteen determined to become a
writer. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and her graduate degree from Rad
cliffe College. In 1966, Atwood's first published collection of poetry,
The Circle Game
, gained critical praise, and in
1969 her first novel was published,
The Edible Woman
. It was made into a film soon after. Atwood was one of the
most sudden literary successes in Canadian history.
In 1986, The Handmaid's Tale was published and became a bestseller. It was written during the anti-feminist back
lash of the 1980s in which feminists were criticized for breaking up the traditional home. The book is composed of
two parts: the Handmaid Offred's diary and the Historical Notes, which provide more historical context for the Tale
and another fictional perspective of Offred's society. Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale in an attempt to illustrate
the logical extension of anti-feminists statements such as "it is every man's right to rule supreme at home" and "a
woman's place is in the home." The Handmaid's Tale is often described as a feminist dystopia (negative utopia) be
cause it is set within an imperfect society of the future, and addresses the misogyny of patriarchal culture. Other in
fluences on the book acknowledged by Atwood include her studies of the American Puritans and the Iranian mono
theocracy of the 1970s and 1980s.
Throughout her career Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. She is the author of
over 23 books fiction and nonfiction. Her work is published in more than 25 countries. Atwood currently lives in
Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson and their daughter.
The Handmaid's Tale
. New York: Anchor Books, 1986.
Brooks Bonson, J.
. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.
Margaret Atwood: A Feminist Politics
. Vancouver: Talon Books, 1984.
The narrator is a fertile woman living in the late twentieth century in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A religious group
called the Sons of Jacob has recently overthrown the United States government. Our narrator has been arrested for
being married to a divorced man, which is heretical. She and her husband, Luke, were arrested while trying to es
cape the country on fake passports. Their daughter was taken away from them, and given to an elite, childless fam
ily. Our narrator was sent to the Rachael and Leah Re-Education Center, which is known as the Red Center, to be
trained for her new role in The Republic of Gilead. All Handmaids are trained at the Red Center, where they are
brainwashed into submission to their new role by a group of women called Aunts. A Handmaid's role is to bear chil