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The Handmaid's Tale

Dystopia like you've never seen it.

From The Hunger Games to Bioshock to Star Trek, pop culture has tons of fantasy-filled visions of distant worlds that bear little resemblance to our own. But what if one of those fantasies suddenly came true in your lifetime?

With Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, you'll be thrust into a not-too-distant future that is ruled by a strict, totalitarian regime obsessed with the growing infertility of the human race. As the members of Atwood's society struggle to retain elements of the life that they once took for granted, we'll take a closer look at our own world and what we might be overlooking as well. 

Get ready to get dystopian with Common Core-friendly activities and test tubes full of readings where you'll:

  • define dystopian fiction and speculative fiction and situate The Handmaid's Tale within these genres.
  • ask yourself: was Atwood trying to warn us, as a modern society, about something? Or is there another message?
  • compare and contrast our modern society and events throughout history with that of the totalitarian reality in the novel.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. The Handmaid's Tale

A Biblically-focused, male-controlled theocracy? This can't end well. In this 15-lesson unit, we'll dive into the elaborate world of The Handmaid's Tale to see what's so special about Margaret Atwood's dystopia.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 1: Welcome to Gilead

Storytelling. It allows us to do literally anything we want.

  • Want to go on a whaling adventure? No problem.
  • Interested in revisiting the South during the Civil Rights era? Hop on in.
  • More into weird hellish dream-visions? You got it.
The cars aren't as cool in Atwood's world, either.

But maybe the coolest thing storytelling can do is take us to alternate futures. That's right: literature can show us what we're up against.

Consider The Handmaid's Tale an experiment in this type of time-travel. No Dolorean required.

As we emerge into the future, we'll need to get our bearings. So in this lesson, we'll think about how Atwood reveals the setting and the rules of this new society. You'll get used to the customs—and even the fashions—of Gilead right alongside our narrator

Buckle up, time-travelers, and welcome to The Handmaid's Tale.

  • Course Length: 3 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, College
  • Course Type: Short Course
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature
    • High School

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