The Handmaid's Tale Themes

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Sex Roles

The roles that are assigned to the two genders in this novel are exaggerations of the roles traditionally played: women here are responsible for domestic duties and men in Gilead run the government functions (since this is a totalitarian state, business and military concerns are part of the government). To most of the people of Gilead, the strict assignment of these roles seems reasonable, a natural outcome of the physical traits that define males and females.

Industrial pollution has caused sterility in ninety-nine percent of the female population and countless numbers of the males, creating a crisis for the ability of the human race to survive into the future. From this the government had claimed the right to require any fertile females to participate in government-supervised child-bearing programs. This has caused a need to keep all non-fertile females in structured domestic roles, in order to assure the...

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This section contains 1,067 words
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Buy The Handmaid's Tale Study Guide
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Novels for Students
The Handmaid's Tale from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.