A popular text for Higher English is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It is a contemporary classic. Partly because the writing is skilled, partly because the issues and themes in the book were relevant in the 1980s, and still are today.
If you are studying the novel, having an understanding of the novel is crucial. This is more than just understanding the plot or the characters. It is important to understanding the main themes such as women in society, power, social class, language and others.
However, to further improve your understanding of the novel you require some background to it. Having an awareness of the author’s personal life, her society, the times in which she lived, her views on history, the genre in which she writes, society’s issues, in Margaret Atwood’s case feminism is important, any social movements of the time, all of this contributes to a deeper appreciation of the novel and its themes.
This deeper appreciation of the novel is not only interesting – it makes the novel a more satisfying read – as well as improving your ability to analyse in your essay. The more you understand a novel: the person and circumstances that gave rise to it, the better your essays on that novel will be.
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