Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Nancy Easterlin

Second Advisor

Anne Boyd Rioux

Third Advisor

Ellen Shelby Richardson Lovell


Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian world in which women have lost all individualism and have been reduced to breeding machines. This paper analyzes the patriarchal characteristics of The Handmaid’s Tale by using a Darwinian feminist theory to understand the evolutionary psychological root of male control of women in the narrative. Additionally, this in-depth reading relies on David Geary’s analysis of male and female mating dynamics and Barbara Smuts’ study of the evolution of patriarchy in humans to further give evidence to the evolutionary root of Gilead’s patriarchy. The men of Gilead control women through creating a fundamentalist biblical society, eliminating economic and educational resources for women, forcing women into becoming surrogates, implementing uniforms, and instilling social isolation; each of these cultural changes can be further explained through Darwinian feminism.


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