The Handmaid's Tale: Biography: Margaret Atwood
A novelist, poet and critic, Margaret Atwood is one of North America's leading contemporary writers. She is the author of more than thirty books and her work has been published in more than twenty-five countries.
Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Canada. Her father was a forest entomologist and her mother was a graduate in Home Economics from the University of Toronto. Atwood grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec and Toronto. She began writing poems, plays and an unfinished novel at the age of six. By the time she was sixteen, she decided that writing was the only thing she wanted to do.
In 1957 Atwood became a student of English at Victoria College, University of Toronto. In 1961, after graduation, she studied English at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and was awarded an M.A. in 1962. She spent a year working on doctoral studies at Harvard before taking up a position as an instructor of English literature at the University of British Columbia. Her first collection of poetry, The Circle Game (1966), won the Governor General's Award.
Since then Atwood has published poetry, novels, short stories, children's literature, and nonfiction, and taught in many Canadian and American universities. Her poetry includes The Animals in That Country (1968), You Are Happy (1975), Interlunar (1984) and Morning in the Burned House (1995). Her novels are The Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976), Life before Man (1979), Bodily Harm (1981), Encounters with the Element Man (1982), Unearthing Suite (1983), The Handmaid's Tale (1985), which was a bestseller and won the Governor General's Award, the Los Angeles Times Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke science fiction award; Cat's Eye (1988), The Robber Bride (1993), Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin (2000) and Oryx and Crake (2003). Atwood's short story collections include Dancing Girls and Other Stories (1977), and Bluebeard's Egg and Other Stories (1983); her nonfiction includes Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972).
Several of Atwood's works have been made into films, including the poem "The Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer" and the novels Surfacing, The Edible Woman, and The Handmaid's Tale.
Atwood has received honorary degrees from several institutions, including Smith College and the University of Toronto. She was president of the Writers Union of Canada from 1982 to 1983, and President of P.E.N. International's Anglo-Canadian branch from 1984 to 1985. She has also been awarded the Le Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Artes et des Lettres in France and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature.
Atwood lives in Toronto with Canadian writer Graeme Gibson. They have a daughter, Jess, born in 1977.
The Handmaid's Tale Study GuideChoose to Continue
- The Handmaid's Tale
- Chapters 1-4
- Chapters 1-4
- Chapters 5-8
- Chapters 9-12
- Chapters 13-16
- Chapters 17-20
- Chapters 21-24
- Chapters 25-28
- Chapters 29-32
- Chapters 33-36
- Chapters 37-39
- Chapters 40-43
- Chapters 44-46 & Historical Notes
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Margaret Atwood
- Essay Q&A