Literary Interpretation of The Hand maids Tale

Assignment: Literary Interpretation

In the Introduction of The Handmaid’s Tale, recall that Margaret Atwood says she is frequently asked 3 questions about the book, one of which is “Is The Handmaid’s Tale a prediction?” She answers, “Let’s say it’s an anti-prediction: if this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended upon either” (xviii). So to paraphrase Atwood, she is basically saying she hopes this story is not a prediction, but she leaves open the possibility that at least parts of what we see happen in this fictional tale might one day become reality.

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Your task: Write an essay in which you either 1) argue that Atwood’s tale will remain pure fiction, or 2) argue that certain parts of this tale may indeed come true. (Do not argue, “I believe it’s both.” Take one side or the other only.)

If you argue that The Handmaid’s Tale will remain pure fiction, state in your thesis the reasons why you believe this. What are the specific safeguards or societal elements in place in America now that would prevent a takeover of the government like that described in Atwood’s novel (recall her description of “the catastrophe” on page 174)? Write an argumentative essay in which you explore these guarantees against such a fiction. Explain your position by examining the conditions in the novel that could never happen here.

If you argue that there are elements of The Handmaid’s Tale that may come true, are likely to come true, or are perhaps already true—what are the specific reasons you believe this? Where do these possibilities exist? Write an argumentative essay in which you explore these conditions that make this outcome likely. Refer to specific passages in the novel in your explanation.



Your essay should include an interesting opening paragraph that introduces the topic of your paper and states your guiding idea or thesis.
It should also include a conclusion paragraph that explains your final observations, questions, or reflections.
The body of your essay should present a clear interpretation of The Handmaid’s Tale that supports your position. Do not seek content from secondary sources—examine and cite The Handmaid’s Tale ONLY.
Your essay should introduce and analyze a series of specific examples from the novel to support your interpretation.
Your essay should be 1000-1200 words long.


The structure of your essay should grow out of your guiding idea or thesis. It should be organized into a series of paragraphs, each dedicated to a main idea or example that explains or elaborates on some component of your thesis.
Your essay should include topic sentences and transitions to help your reader move from main idea to main idea, paragraph to paragraph.

Format and Citation

You should include quotations that are contextualized, well explained, and formatted in MLA. At least three quotations are required, including at least one block quotation (See Greene and Lidinsky pages 231-32 for examples of block quotations).
Your essay should include an MLA works cited entry for each source that you cite.
Your essay should be in MLA general format throughout.

Style and Mechanics

Your essay should exhibit correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
You should utilize an appropriate authorial voice and academic style.

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