The Handmaid’s Tale
List of Pre-Readings, Readings, and Post-Readings (in sequential order)
READ ALL OF THE FOLLOWING NOTES and ASSIGNMENT LIST BEFORE BEGINNING YOUR READING.
All assignments must be completed by January 6, 2003. Journals will be collected on that day. Your book and bookmarks will be collected on Friday, January 10.
Also note: A indicates that you should NOT read past a certain point in the book before completing a certain assignment.
Further note: Although you’ll be journaling and making up book marks as you go, you should also be marking in your book! While some assignments ask you to do this, this should not prevent you from doing even more marking. There is a lot going on in this novel. Mark connections between passages. Mark patterns that catch your eye. Write questions in the margins. Etc., etc., etc.
ASSIGNMENT #1: Journal A—Anticipation Guide
The Handmaid’s Tale presents a futuristic view of a Western society. The following issues will be important in this book. Agree or disagree with the following statements and list a couple reasons why your opinion is your opinion.
· Women are not safe in modern society.
· Men objectify women and that makes them responsible for the oppression of women.
· Women are responsible for their own oppression.
ASSIGNMENT #2: Journal B—Epigraphs
Read the epigraphs (the quotes at the very beginning of the book). Then read/complete (as needed) the following.
ASSIGNMENT #3: Journal C—Chapter 1
ASSIGNMENT #4: Motif Marking
As you start to read Chapter 2, choose at least one of the following motifs to trace for the rest of the novel: “eye,” “red,” “blue.” OR Trace the themes of “freedom” and “choice” or the theme of “storytelling” through the rest of the novel.
ASSIGNMENT #5: Journal D—Chapters 4 and 5
Some information: The clothing store name "Lilies" is derived from Matthew 6:28. "A land flowing with milk and honey" is a common Biblical phrase, often used to describe Canaan, the "Promised Land." "All flesh" originally means "all of humanity" (see Isaiah 40:5) but here is given a more literal sense as the name for butcher shops.
3. What is the women's reaction to the pregnant woman?
4. How are the Japanese women different from the women of Gilead? Is Atwood idealizing them? What do you think the point of the contrast is?
ASSIGNMENT #6: Character Passage Marking
Start looking for significant moments/passages (no more than a page in length) about the following characters: Serena Joy, the Commander, and Nick. Also, pick either Aunt Lydia or Janine. Highlight these significant passages and mark which character they are significant for in the margin of your book. Do this periodically as you read through the entire book.
ASSIGNMENT #7: Journal E—Chapter 7
ASSIGNMENT #8—Moira Bookmarks (You must have 5 or more by the end of the novel.)
Starting with Chapter 10, start making bookmarks on Moira’s character. Isolate significant moments in the novel where Moira appears or is referred to. Write up a brief statement summarizing which moment you chose. Then reflect on the following: What do these moments tell us about who Moira is? What do you notice about the way the narrator speaks about Moira? How/why is Moira significant to the narrator? (Note: “Moira” means “fate.”)
ASSIGNMENT #9—Journal F, Chapter 11
What do we learn about the Handmaid system during the scene at the doctor's office? (Remember: "Give me children, or else I die." (Genesis 30:1).)
Some information: Deuteronomy 17:6 requires that for a couple to be stoned to death on account of adultery there has to be two witnesses to the act.
ASSIGNMENT #10—Journal G, Reactions, Questions, and Impressions List
If you haven’t done so already, start making a list of questions, reactions, and impressions you are having about the book so far.
ASSIGNMENT #11—Moira Bookmarks (You must have 5 or more by the end of the novel.)
*ahem* *cough* *cough* Chapter 13… good place to stop for Moira (Note: “Moira” means “fate.”)
ASSIGNMENT #12—Journal H, Chapter 16
Break this chapter down into a complete list of techniques and themes. If you notice a pattern in this passage, also make note of what that pattern is associated with in the text (i.e., “Red,” from early on in the book is associated with “blood” and “life” and “womb,” etc.). (You may actually want to come back to this Chapter and re-read it several times after you’ve read farther or finished the book.)
ASSIGNMENT #13—More Bookmarks
Go back to passages you’ve highlighted and continue to highlight as you go forward on all of the main characters (excluding the narrator): Serena Joy, the Commander, Nick, and one minor character: Aunt Lydia or Janine. Start making up 4-5 bookmarks on each main character; 2-3 on ONE minor character. Just like the Moira bookmarks, include a blurb about the context of the moment you picked. Then, however, write a reflection about your understanding of the character at that moment (What is s/he really like and why?), and the effect they have on the narrator. (The minimum number of bookmarks you will be turning in is 19—5 for Moira, 4 for Serena Joy, 4 for the Commander, 4 for Nick, and 2 for either Janine or Aunt Lydia.)
ASSIGNMENT #14—Journal I, Summing up Offred
Write up a summary of the following as regards Offred, our narrator:
· Offred’s relationship/remembrances of Moira and what they tell us about Offred
· Offred’s relationship/remembrances of her mother and what they tell us about Offred
· Offred’s relationship/remembrances of Luke and what they tell us about Offred
ASSIGNMENT #15—Moira Bookmarks (You must have 5 or more by the end of the novel.)
On page 233, Offred writes:
What I want is a mirror, to see if my lipstick is all right, whether the feathers are too ridiculous, too frowsy. In this light I must look lurid. Though it’s too late now.
Idiot, says Moira.
*ahem* *cough* *cough* Pages 238-250… good place to stop for Moira ESPECIALLY to reflect on the contrast between the passage quoted above and Moira at Jezebel’s. (Note: “Moira” means “fate.”)
ASSIGNMENT #16—Journal J, Revision of the Narrative
Go back and re-read pages 104-106. Then re-read pages 260-263. The narrator of this book in these places and in others has a habit of revising herself as she tells her story. Discuss two or more effects that this seems to have in the novel and explain why you think those are the effects (particularly in light of other things happening in the novel).
ASSIGNMENT #17—Journal K, The End and Novel Reflection
ASSIGNMENT #18—Journal L, Pre-Reading and Questions/Impressions List on the “Historical Notes”
Now you need to read the “Historical Notes” at the end of the novel. (Yes, this is actually part of the book.)
Read the italicized lines on page 299. Here we are told that the “Notes” are a “partial transcript” from a “Symposium on Gileadean Studies.” The date of this symposium is June 25, 2195, approximately 200 years after the time period of Offred’s narrative.
Given the information in these italicized lines, what has happened to the society of Gilead? What do you make of the names of the chair and the speaker?
2. DURING READING