Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Introduction
The Handmaid’s Tale: Plot Summary
The Handmaid’s Tale: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Handmaid’s Tale: Themes
The Handmaid’s Tale: Quotes
The Handmaid’s Tale: Characters
The Handmaid’s Tale: Symbols
The Handmaid’s Tale: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Margaret Atwood
Historical Context of The Handmaid’s Tale
Other Books Related to The Handmaid’s Tale
- Full Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
- When Written: Early 1980s
- Where Written: West Berlin
- When Published: 1985
- Literary Period: Feminist
- Genre: Speculative Fiction / Science Fiction / Dystopia
- Setting: Cambridge, Massachusetts under the dystopian government of the Republic of Gilead, which has replaced the United States.
- Climax: The Eyes, or maybe the Mayday Resistance, come to pick up Offred
- Antagonist: Though the Commander, Serena Joy, and Aunt Lydia seem to be Offred’s enemies, the real antagonist is the Republic of Gilead itself.
- Point of View: First person limited
Extra Credit for The Handmaid’s Tale
A Movie…and an Opera The Handmaid’s Tale became a movie in 1990 (with a screenplay mostly written by the acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter), and an opera (with music by the Danish composer Poul Ruders) in 2000. Both productions received mixed reviews. In the movie, Duke University’s campus subs in for Harvard in the Salvaging scene.
Speculative Fiction or Science Fiction? Atwood insists on the label speculative fiction for the novel, since she thinks its events could actually occur, whereas those of science fiction are more far-fetched. This distinction has drawn debate and ire from science fiction writers.