Sample questions on The Handmaid's Tale

  1. Offred frequently uses the word ‘exchange'. Examine the importance of the idea of exchange in The Handmaid's Tale.
  2. How far do you agree with the view that ‘the relationship between mothers and daughters is at the heart of The Handmaid's Tale'?
  3. Consider the ways in which Atwood presents the significance of the individual versus the state in The Handmaid's Tale.
  4. Aunt Lydia says to the women at the Red Centre, ‘Don't think it's easy for me.' To what extent, if any, can her view be justified?
  5. What, in your opinion, is the importance of Ofwarren in The Handmaid's Tale?
  6. Offred frequently says that her story is a reconstruction. What does The Handmaid's Tale have to suggest to readers about the nature of story-telling and the role of the author?
  7. Offred plays Scrabble with the Commander and she also uses frequent puns. How significant is the idea of language in The Handmaid's Tale?
  8. Aunt Lydia tells the Handmaids that there are two kinds of freedom: ‘freedom to and freedom from'. How does Atwood present ideas about ‘freedom to and freedom from' throughout the novel?
  9. To what effect does Atwood use a non-chronological approach in The Handmaid's Tale?
  10. Consider the importance of the section ‘Historical Notes' to the novel as a whole.
  11. What does The Handmaid's Tale have to say about feminism and the treatment of women? In your answer consider in detail the roles of two of the following: Luke; Offred's mother; Moira; the Commander.
  12. Read the following extract (from chapter 21) carefully. How does Atwood present Commander Warren's Wife and to what effect, in the extract from ‘The Commander's Wife hurries in … our eyes are on Janine.'?

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