Handmaid’s Tale

Handmaid’s Tale Critical Essay Assignment


Possible Topics and Grading Rubric



You are writing a 3-5 page (double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman ONLY) essay exploring some of the issues raised in the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Most of the questions do not have a “right” or “wrong” answer so this assignment will be assessing your critical thinking, analysis and writing skills.  It is strongly advised that you have read the novel completely before you begin writing, as you will need to use specific quotes/references to the book in writing your essay.  Make sure you know how to properly cite text using either endnotes (APA) or footnotes (Chicago Style Manual) as points will be deducted for improper citations as well as poor grammar, spelling and punctuation.


Essays will be graded for (1) organization – strong thesis, smooth transition from one topic to the next, solid conclusion (2) analysis – how well did you analyze and evaluate the novel in relation to the question posed, did you make connections between the novel and the present (3) citations and documentation – did you include direct quotes to analyze, citing them properly and if using outside sources, where the citations done correctly in the body of the paper and in the Bibliography (Chicago) or References (APA) section.   Each category will be graded on a scale of 1-5 with the entire paper being worth 15 points total and 15% of your final grade.



Select ONE of the following questions/topics to answer in your essay:


  1. The Commander in the novel says you can’t cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instincts?
  2. How does The Handmaid’s Tale depict the intersection between politics and sexual reproduction? How is Gilead’s political order defined by this intersection, and how does it affect the lives of women?
  3. Is Atwood’s novel ultimately a feminist work of literature, or does it offer a critique of feminism?
  4. One of the main goals of the Gilead Regime seems to be to control and regulate sex and sexuality. Do you think they succeed? Are sexual relations more ordered and “normalized” under the new regime?
  5. “There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”  If women are given freedom from in Gilead society, what must they give up in order to have this freedom and what justification is offered as to why women’s “freedom to” has been taken away?


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