The Handsmaid Tale

Readers and literary critics continue to debate Offred’s heroism in The Handmaid’s Tale. Some feel that Offred is a heroic rebel because she tells the story of her life as a Handmaid in a society where doing so could result in her torture or even death. Others feel that since she takes no direct action against the Republic of Gilead – unlike Moira and Ofglen, who do – that she fails to demonstrate heroic qualities or behaviors.


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Students selecting this topic need to present a focused, organized analysis that demonstrates specific reasons they believe that Offred is either a heroic figure or not. These specific reasons will be supported by quoted material from passages in the novel that “show” Offred’s beliefs or behaviors in ways that clearly support your thesis.


Successful essays will ALSO demonstrate awareness of the counter-arguments to whatever stand on the issue the writer decides to take. Arguments that Offred is or is not a heroic figure are only strengthened when writers focus on an argument that does NOT support their claims, then prove why those counter-arguments are incomplete or less successful by providing direct quotations from the novel in support.


Please note: “Book Report”-style essays (ones that use a lot of summary without providing enough evidence of the student’s own analysis / critical thinking skills) will receive low (possibly even non-passing) grades. DO NOT spend too much time writing about “what happens.” Instead, explain to the reader “WHY do events happen the way they do?” or “HOW do issues raised in the articles help readers to better understand the reasons why men in Atwood’s novel thought replacing America with the Republic of Gilead would be beneficial?”

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