Advanced English students strengthen their knowledge and understanding of language and literature by analysing and evaluating texts and the ways they shape, and are shaped by, societal values and attitudes.

The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood and originally published in 1985, is studied in the module Narratives that Shape our World in conjunction with the James McTeigue film version of V for Vendetta.

Students analyse and evaluate one or more print, digital and/or multimodal texts to explore how narratives are shaped by the contexts and values of composers and responders alike.

The class engaged in and enjoying an impassioned discussion of this novel's themes and context of the novel from mid 1980s. Some of the discussion points from our students included:

  • Consideration for the author's message: Is Atwood, through her writing, saying how easily this can happen? The potential for a dystopian society is there unless we are vigilant.
  • Is the context of the mid 1980s, when the novel was written, a factor in her writing and message?
  • How do oppressive regimes begin? Is it close to our reality when we take deep look at current politics? Ultra conservatism still exists.

History at times has focused on the macro narrative rather than the micro narrative and experience of individuals.