Margaret Atwood Handmaids Tale

Are Atwood’s novels feminist texts?

Margaret Atwood is often viewed by critics as a feminist writer, particularly in her early novels which are nearly all considered to express a clear feminist message. Atwood concerns herself and her novels with the notion that women are oppressed in Western society, and their opinions and individuality are often severely restricted. The majority of Atwood’s novels, books and poetry feature strong female protagonists and examine their relationships within society. Despite her novels widely portraying female characters dominated by a patriarchal society, Atwood “refuses to be drawn into the feminist camp,” (Tolan, 2007, p. 2) claiming that the feminist label can only be applied to writers who consciously work within the framework of the feminist movement. Atwood insists that she merely wrote about the things going on in the years she wrote her novels.

Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is perhaps considered as one of her most ‘feminist’ novels. Written in 1985, a time when the opposition to the feminist movement was rising, the novel portrays a predicted reality of the world if the anti-feminist messages promoted during the 1980’s were followed through. It details the virtual enslavement of women and their reduction to mere functions through the Gilead regime. Within this regime, women are assigned to various classes according to their functions; the wives, the Handmaids, the Martha’s, the Econo-wives, and the Aunts. As a result of this regime, women are robbed of their individual identities and simply seen as a collective body known only by their class. Besides the obvious attack on male prejudice and modern capitalist society, the novel attempts to protest against the mistreatment of women through the use of the heroin, Offred, who throughout the novel attempts to defy her sex role. The novel focuses primarily around the function of the Handmaids; fertile women whose only mission in life is to give birth to the offspring of...