Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide

Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale captivates readers with its disturbingly prescient vision of the future and haunting insights into the world as we know it. Religion--especially elements of the Christian faith--pervades every inch of the world as Atwood imagines it. Gilead's leaders use perverse forms of Christianity to sustain their authority and privilege, making understanding religion an integral part of understanding Gilead. In the face of the inextricable role of religion in the novel, readers are left to puzzle out religious references and allusions on their own.

From the significance of names to twisted uses of religion to the origins of the Ceremony, this book answers all the questions you might have about religion in this prophetic novel. For anyone who's ever googled a biblical precedent or religious phrase after encountering Atwood's dystopia, this essential guide explains it all and gives readers a fascinating look into the novel and its world. Read it and understand The Handmaid's Tale like never before.

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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9781506456300
  • Format Paperback
  • Dimensions 5 x 7
  • Pages 130
  • Publication Date September 3, 2019

Table of Contents

Introduction - Reading The Handmaid's Tale in the Twenty-First Century 
Chapter One: Significance of People and Place Names in The Handmaid's Tale 
Chapter Two: Biblical Allusions in The Handmaid's Tale 
Chapter Three: Religion Gone Awry in The Handmaid's Tale 
Chapter Four: Gender Roles and Politics in The Handmaid's Tale 
Chapter Five: The Handmaid's Tale on TV - How the Hulu Series Adapts Atwood's Novel 
Appendix: Further Reading


"This helpful guide will equip readers to appreciate the rich layers of irony in Atwood's dark, timely dystopian vision. It invites deeper reflection on the emotional and social complexities of gender roles, uses and abuses of power, and the dangers of misreading."
—Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Professor of Medical Humanities UC-Berkeley-UCSF

"In this careful examination, Tennant offers a steady and clear companion that identifies and explains Atwood's rich subtext of biblical metaphor, orthopraxy, idiom, euphemism, and naming."
—Gina Ochsner, Writer in Residence, Corban University; Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Short Story Award and the Oregon Book Award

"You can read the novel (or watch the series) without this guide, but what Colette Tennant offers here will greatly deepen your appreciation."
—Penelope Scambly Schott; Winner of Oregon Book Award

"I did not truly comprehend the layering, nuance, and symbolism of Atwood's astute social commentary until I read Tennant's masterful discourse, which bridges the religion gap between novice and professional in a comprehensive, intelligent, logical way."
—Laura LeHew, MFA, author of Becoming and Willingly Would I Burn.

"Tennant's close reading and insightful connections reveal the intricacies of Atwood's story for binge-watcher and book-lover alike."
—Stephanie Lenox; Winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry


"A revealing guide to the Christian and biblical language, allusions, and themes in both Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985) and the Hulu series based on of Atwood's story will find much use in this easily browsed handbook of scriptural references."  
—Publishers Weekly