Literature Study GuidesThe Handmaids Tale

The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood

Year Published






Perspective and Narrator

Atwood presents The Handmaid's Tale predominantly through the first-person point of view of the narrator, Offred, a 33-year-old woman. The reader's understanding of events is limited to Offred's understanding of them. The novel is framed by an epigraph, or short quotation, and a final section of historical notes set in the future, in the year 2195, at an educational symposium, where a professor narrates the story of his transcription and study of the text known as The Handmaid's Tale.


The Handmaid's Tale interchanges present and past tense. The narrator alternates between events in the immediate present and events that happen in both flashbacks and dreams at various times in the past.

About the Title

The narrator is one of a class of women known as Handmaids, women who serve as birth mothers for childless elites. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, where birth rates have dropped significantly due to environmental pollution.


This study guide and infographic for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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