The Handmaid's tale and Gileadean Society

History is the study of the past and present. Historians investigate source materials from the past, including documents, images, artifacts, and recordings (e.g., storytelling and oral histories), and come up with new interpretations that allow us to see the present differently.

Imagine that it is the year 2195 and you are a prominent historian who studies Gileadean Society. The International Historical Association has invited you to be the Keynote Speaker for their Symposium on Gileadean Studies. This year’ssymposium theme is “Parallels Between Gileadean Society and US Society.”

You had recently come across a rare first-person narrative of a Gileadean woman named “Offred.” Entitled The Handmaid’s Tale, the narrative offers insight into the everyday lives of Gileadean women under the rule of the “Sons of Jacob.” You find parallels between Gileadean women and American women, and plan to share your findings in your speech.


Write a 4-5 page speech for the Gilead Studies Symposium. In your speech, you must:

•    Identify at least one gender-related theme in the novel. You may write about more than one gender-related theme. (Scroll down for examples of gender-related themes to consider.)
•    Provide examples from the novel (with quotes and page numbers) that illustrate that theme.
•    Discuss parallels/similarities between the experiences of women/men in Gileadean and US society. You MUST draw connections between the gender-related theme of your choice and a topicwe covered over the course of the semester.


•    Your speech must be at least four (4) pages long, and typed in 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around.
•    Your speech should include a title.
•    Proofread and spell-check your completed speech before submission.

Gender-related themes to consider:

1)    Women’s bodies as private property.

2)    The regulation of women’s sexuality and reproduction as social policy.

3)    The drawbacks to sexual freedom.

4)    Gender relationality and the ways in which the control of women differentially affects men and defines masculinity/men’s sexuality.

5)    The role of institutions (i.e., religion, education, law) in socializing women.

6)    Intersectionality and the hierarchy among women. How do women in the novel experience patriarchy differently?

7)    “Gender treachery” and the punishment of those who transgress prescribed gender roles.

8)    “Testifying” and gender-shaming.


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