The Mothers, Daughters, Sisters: The Intergenerational Transmission of Womanhood in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments
The article reads The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments as a response to changes in the feminist movement. Less radical than their mothers’ generation, second-wave feminists’ daughters often abandoned the struggle for equality and focused on homemaking. Nevertheless, the 1990s saw a resurgence of the women’s liberation movement known as the third wave. These feminism(s) significantly redefined the notion of womanhood and emphasised the diversity of the female. After 2010, critics argue, third-wave feminism entered the fourth wave. This analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on Offred’s relationship with her mother, which is representative of the wider phenomenon of the Backlash. It investigates how the mother and her generation influenced the maternal choices of the Handmaid and discusses the trauma of child removal suffered by Offred. The final section examines The Testaments through the lens of third-wave feminism and analyzes the plight of Offred’s daughters, focusing on their attitudes towards womanhood and maternity.
Alford, Allison M., and Meredith Marko Harrigan. 2019. “Role Expectations and Role Evaluations in Daughtering: Constructing the Good Daughter.” Journal of Family Communication 19 (4): 348–61. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2019.1643352.
Allit, Patrick. 2016. “Phyllis Schlafly: American feminism’s great anti-heroine.” The Spectator, September 10, 2016. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/death-of-an-anti-feminist.
Atwood, Margaret. (1985) 1987. The Handmaid’s Tale. London: Virago Press.
—. 2019a. The Testaments. London: Chatto & Windus.
—. 2019b. “Margaret Atwood: For a long time we were moving away from Gilead.” Interview by Lisa Allardice. The Guardian, September 20, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/20/margaret-atwood-moving-away-from-gilead-testaments.
Badinter, Elisabeth. 2011. The Conflict. How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Translated by Adriana Hunter. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Barzilai, Shuli. 2005. “The Bluebeard Syndrome in Atwood’s Lady Oracle: Fear and Femininity.” Marvels & Tales 19 (2): 249–73.
Bloom, Harold. 2004. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Bloom’s Guides. New York: Chelsea House.
Bouson, J. Brooks. 1993. “The Misogyny of Patriarchal Culture in The Handmaid’s Tale.” In Brutal Choreographies: Oppositional Strategies and Narrative Design in the Novels of Margaret Atwood, 135–58. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.
Boyd, Carol J. 1989. “Mothers and Daughters: A Discussion of Theory and Research.” Journal of Marriage and Family 51 (2): 291–301. https://doi.org/10.2307/352493.
Braithwaite, Ann. 2002. “The personal, the political, third-wave and postfeminisms.” Feminist Theory 3 (3): 335–44. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F146470002762492033.
Brans, Jo. 2006. “Using What You’re Given.” In Waltzing Again: New and Selected Conversations with Margaret Atwood, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, 79–89. Princeton, NJ: Ontario Review Press.
Budgeon, Shelley. 2011a. Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Gender in Late Modernity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
—. 2011b. “The Contradictions of Successful Femininity: Third-Wave Feminism, Postfeminism and ‘New’ Femininities.” In New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity, edited by Rosalind Gill and Christina Scharff, 279–92. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Chamberlain, Prudence. 2017. The Feminist Fourth Wave: Affective Temporality. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Chodorow, Nancy J. 1999. The Reproduction of Mothering. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Chodorow, Nancy J., and Susan Contratto. 1989. “The Fantasy of the Perfect Mother.” In Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, edited by Nancy J. Chodorow, 79–96. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Cixous, Hélène. 1976. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Translated by Keith and Paula Cohen. Signs 1 (4): 875–93. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3173239.
Dicker, Rory, and Alison Piepmeier. 2003. “Introduction.” In Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century, edited by R. Dicker and A. Piepmeier, 3–28. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Ducret, Diane. 2016. Zakazane ciało. Historia męskiej obsesji. Kraków: Znak Horyzont.
Enright, Anne. 2019. “The Testaments by Margaret Atwood review: A dazzling follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale.” The Guardian, September 10, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/10/thetestaments-by-margaret-atwood-review.
Evans, Elizabeth. 2015. The Politics of Third Wave Feminisms: Neoliberalism, Intersectionality, and the State in Britain and the US. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Faludi, Susan. 2006. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Gamble, Sarah. 2006. “Postfeminism.” In The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Postfeminism, edited by Sarah Gamble, 36–45. New York: Routledge.
Hall, Christopher. 2011. “Beyond Kübler-Ross: Recent developments in our understanding of grief and bereavement.” InPsych 33 (6). https://www.psychology.org.au/formembers/publications/inpsych/2011/dec/Beyond-Kubler-Ross-Recent-developments-in-our-und.
Hall, Judy. 2003. The Crystal Bible. Cincinnati: Walking Stick Press.
Heywood, Leslie, and Jennifer Drake. 1997. “Introduction.” In Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism, edited by Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, 1–20. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
Hogsette, David S. 1997. “Margaret Atwood’s Rhetorical Epilogue in The Handmaid’s Tale: The Reader’s Role in Empowering Offred’s Speech Act.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 38 (4): 262–78.
Howells, Coral Ann. 1996. Margaret Atwood. London: Macmillan Press.
—. 2005. Margaret Atwood. Second Ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Irigaray, Luce. 1991. “The Bodily Encounter with the Mother.” In The Irigaray Reader, edited by Margaret Whitford, 34–46. Translated by David Macey. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Jung, Carl Gustav. 1980. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Collected Works. Volume 9 Part I. Translated by G. Adler and R.F.C. Hull. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Malak, Amin. 1987. “Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the Dystopian Tradition.” Canadian Literature 112: 9–15.
McNally, Richard J. 2005. “Debunking Myths about Trauma and Memory.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 50 (13): 817–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/070674370505001302.
Miller, Eric C. 2015. “Phyllis Schlafly’s ‘Positive’ Freedom: Liberty, Liberation, and the Equal Rights Amendment.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 18 (2): 277–300.
Neuman, Shirley. 2006. “‘Just a Backlash’: Margaret Atwood, Feminism, and The Handmaid’s Tale.” University of Toronto Quarterly 75 (3): 857–68. https://doi.org/10.1353/utq.2006.0260.
Rivers, Nicola. 2017. Postfeminism(s) and the Arrival of the Fourth Wave. Turning Tides. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rossi, Alice S. 1977. “A Biosocial Perspective on Parenting.” Daedalus 106 (2): 1–31.
Schlafly, Phyllis. 2003. “The Positive Woman Knows Who She Is.” In The Columbia Documentary History of American Women Since 1941, edited by Harriet Sigerman. 323–25. New York: Columbia University Press.
Tolan, Fiona. 2005. “Feminist Utopias and Questions of Liberty: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as Critique of Second Wave Feminism.” Women: A cultural review 16 (1): 18–32.
—. 2007. Margaret Atwood: Feminism and Fiction. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi.
Winch, Alison. 2013. Girlfriends and Postfeminist Sisterhood. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wolf, Naomi. 2003. Misconceptions. Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. New York: Anchor Books.
Copyright (c) 2020 Ewelina Feldman Kołodziejuk
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal ELOPE by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.