The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Theme of The Home
There is a clear distinction between house and home in The Handmaid's Tale. Handmaids are placed in other people's homes, which to them are just houses. There's no reason for them to feel at home there. Strangely, one of the most home-like places in the restricted Republic of Gilead is a brothel, which used to be a hotel. It's full of references to the time before, like unchanged wallpaper and tiny soaps, which give it a feeling of familiarity and timelessness that's missing from the houses in which the Handmaids and Marthas work.
Questions About The Home
- Where would you say the narrator feels most at home? Why do you think that is?
- Why is the narrator so reluctant to call her quarters at the Commander's house "my room"? What makes her change her mind?
- In a world where women can't read, buy things, or otherwise exercise their agency, can they still consider themselves to have homes? How is the idea of a home connected to those other concepts?
Chew on This
Once the narrator arrives at the Women's Center, the idea of ever having a place she could call "home" again is closed to her.