Handmaids: A Cautionary Tale

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"Dystopian literature is specifically that literature which situates itself in direct opposition to utopian thought, warning against the potential negative consequences of arrant utopianism. At the same time, either through the critical examination of the utopian premises upon which those conditions and systems are based or through the imaginative extension of those conditions and systems into different contexts that more clearly reveal their flaws and contradictions". By this definition, dystopian literature is not so much a specific genre as a particular kind of oppositional and critical energy or spirit. (Booker 3). In a dystopian story, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is a society that is actively working against…show more content…
It is what one can consider a cautionary tale. In the new world of Gilead, a group of conservative religious extremists have taken power, and have turned the sexual revolution upside down. The society of Gilead is founded on what is to be considered a return to traditional values, gender roles and the subjugation of women by men, and the Bible is used as the guiding principle. It differs completely from the society, which was once the place in which Feminists argued for liberation from the traditional gender roles. The Handmaids Tale portrays that of a totalitarian society, and reflects a dystopia, which goes on to explore the interaction between sexuality and politics. (Conboy 349-362) 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 The 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:
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