The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale by Mind Map: The Handmaid's Tale

1. (3) Plot Overview

1.1. Setting

1.1.1. It is sometime in the future, in Massachusetts, and declining birth rates are a concerning issue; the U.S. government has been overthrown by Gilead's totalitarian regime. They strip women of their rights and force them into assigned roles of the social hierarchy. They rule through fear.

1.2. Offred's Story

1.2.1. Offred narrates her experience as a Handmaid. She stays in her room all day, except for when she is allowed to go out for prearranged tasks, like mandatory religious ceremonies and grocery shopping. She has flashbacks to her past, like when she took care of her daughter, and her time being trained by Aunt Lydia on the values of Gilead: submission to Christianity, the absence of rights for women, and the role of women in society, which consists of nothing but reproduction.

1.3. The Backstory

1.3.1. We learn in a flashback about the fall of the U.S. that led to the creation of Gilead. The president was shot, and the government fell apart. Gileadean rebels took over, and they stripped women of their rights. Women’s bank account funds were transferred to the bank account of the male closest to them. Women were laid off from their jobs; Offred, who worked at a library, lost hers. Offred and Luke tried to flee with their daughter, but they were caught and separated. The fates of Luke and Offred's daughter are unknown.

2. (2) Characters

2.1. Offred

2.1.1. Narrator of the novel, a Handmaid.

2.2. Luke

2.2.1. Offred's husband, who she gets separated from when she is forced to become a Handmaid, and whose fate is unknown.

2.3. The Commander

2.3.1. Offred's Commander.

2.4. Serena Joy

2.4.1. The Commander's wife.

2.5. Moira

2.5.1. Offred's friend from college.

2.6. Aunt Lydia

2.6.1. A religious figure who educates women on the ideologies of Gilead.

2.7. Nick

2.7.1. He is the Commander's 'Guardian'; he protects his home, he is their chauffeur, and keeps he tabs on everyone (he is a member of the secret police).

3. (4) Message

3.1. This novel shows how problems in in our society could escalate and we could end up in a similar situation as Gilead, if we do not deal with them; it's a warning for us to fix our society and its values.

3.1.1. This is shown through... The vivid depiction of women's lives in Gilead: We get to see firsthand how horrible Gilead and its anti-feminist values are, from its use of women only as reproductive beings to the way that they are forcefully separated from their families and are treated like property. The hypocrisy of characters in power: The Commanders who are in charge and who make these laws disobey their own laws, lie to their people, and manipulate them. The use of real-world ideas and challenges: Gilead is based on bad ideologies that exist within our own societies, such as anti-feminism and corruption. But what brought them to the point to turn to these for power were pollution and radiation, which caused dangerously low birth rates.

3.1.2. Source: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 1998. Print.

4. (1) Social Hierarchy

4.1. Commander (TOP)

4.1.1. Men who are in positions of power; they are Gilead's equivalent of politicians, and the elite class.

4.2. Commander's Wife

4.2.1. Commander's wives can do whatever they want thanks to their husbands' status; they usually knit and garden.

4.3. Handmaid

4.3.1. A fertile woman that is forced to live with her assigned Commander and have children with him. Their role is to have non-emotional sex with their Commanders, with the purpose of having children to increase the declining population.

4.4. Martha

4.4.1. Women that are used as maids; they cook, clean, and do other household tasks for their assigned Commander.

4.5. Unwomen (BOTTOM)

4.5.1. Infertile women, or Handmaids/Marthas who try to escape; they are sent to the Colonies, which are nuclear wastelands where they do dangerous forced labour.