The Way Fiction Shapes Perceptions, the World

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Choose ONE of the following prompts and write a well-developed essay answering it. Regardless of which

prompt you choose to answer, you must use Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale AND another relevant

story that we have read and discussed in Weeks 1 and 3. These prompts are rather broad and allow you to create

a specific angle with which you will answer them.


1. Language plays an important part in the ways in which a story is told, the ways in which we shape our

perceptions, and how we choose to define and see the world. We see examples of this in The

Handmaid’s Tale and other stories that we have read so far. Use the novel and one other story and

discuss the ways in language is used to shape perceptions.

2. Discuss the ways in which female characters are depicted in fiction: in what ways do they reinforce

conventional gender stereotypes? For what purposes? In what ways do they subvert them? For what

reasons? Use the novel and one other story to discuss this.

3. In what ways does fiction critique an established hegemonic (dominant) order such as patriarchy? Or

capitalism? Or fundamentalism? Use the novel and one other story and discuss the ways in which a

traditional way of looking at society or some aspect of an established order is critiqued.

Things to Remember:

1. Since you will be quoting and referring to examples from The Handmaid’s Tale and one of the stories

that we have read in Weeks 1 and 3, you need to cite your examples in correct MLA format. Whether

you quote or summarize your examples, you always need to follow them with parenthetical citations.

The general format is (Author’s last name Page #) (Atwood 32). However, since some of the work you

read is in an online format, you would use the following format: (Author’s last name, Par. #). For

example, (Chopin, par. 3). (The par. is an abbreviation of paragraph.)

2. Do NOT quote entire paragraphs. You may quote specific lines from the works, but if you want to use
the example of a larger section of the work, you must summarize it in your own words, or choose

specific lines from it to quote. In any case, whether you quote or summarize, you must always cite your

examples in MLA format in parentheses in your essay.

3. Every time you provide an example you need to explain it and how it answers your thesis in your own

4. IMPORTANT: Please do NOT do any external research for this essay. This essay should demonstrate

your understanding of what you have read. So use only your understanding of the novel and the story

you’ve chosen from the ones we’ve read in Weeks 1 and 3, the notes you take, and the introductory


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