Deprivation of Education in “The Handmaid’s Tale” & “A Small Place”

I chose to write about this topic because we (as college students) know how important an education is to have and by having one how far it can take you. Not having one, limits your abilities and intelligence level. Education is key to success and in both novels, the government takes it away from the people and they have no clue what to think, feel, or to do to even try to begin to gain it back. The government knows their power in both novels and feel by choosing not to allow their people to receive an education will keep them in their control. A key point in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the women only being able to decipher the meaning of pictures, not words. A key point in “A Small Place” would be the library senario–its destruction, government’s promise to repair, and it still being closed after 10+ years after the earthquake. Some things I may not know about my topic are the viewpoints of people who do not have access to education, their capabilities (which I may be doubting them of having), personally knowing what it is like not to have an education.

Some things I want to further investigate are:

1.) Even not being allowed an education and no sources being able to get one, do people still manage to become knowledgeable? How?

2.) Why did they (the women in The Handmaid’s Tale and the people of Antigua in A Small Place)  not try to teach one another how to read/write how blacks did during slavery? Do you think they were afraid of the government or simply did not think of this idea?

3.) How does having a powerless society work for the government? Work against the government?

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Deprivation of Education in “The Handmaid’s Tale” & “A Small Place”

  1. smboehm

    I think your take on education for this topic is interesting and you have a lot to work with. I definitely think it would strengthen your paper to define what it means to not have an education (ex. illiterate, higher education, common sense, etc.) Another thing you look into when researching this is:

    4) How did having little education effect these people, especially when the education they received was from the people controlling them?

  2. vrosengrant20

    I especially like the question discussing the benefits and problems that the people in the government would receive if they kept the people uneducated. You could incorporate what types of people in the government are benefiting and how they try to continue the status quo. Another question that you may want to consider is:
    5.) What type of education do the government officials receive and what benefits do they get from it?

  3. siegvald

    The library is definitely a source of self-education. Perhaps you could explore the differences in the two stories. 6. In “Small Place” Jamaica Kincaid utilitzed the resources that the library had to offer and noticed that a lot of Antiguans simply chose not to. However, in “Handmaid’s Tale,” there was no choice to access a library (for the women anyway as we know) whether they wanted to or not.

  4. stperry1

    I like that you picked these two stories to compare because they don’t immediately seem connected. However, you found a very interesting point in that they both are deprived of education and controlled through that. Though both groups are kept from being educated formally, its important to keep in mind the other types of education they invented and explore that thoroughly.
    7) Are there connections between the government in Antigua and the government in Gilead?

  5. Samantha Cooke

    I would like to comment on your second question: the people of Antigua do learn to read and write (they have schools they go to), but they do not take an interest in higher education, nor seem to take pride in what they learn (Kincaid mentions that the education is terrible, but nevertheless it is there).
    I think it’s cool that you’ve made a connection between these two very different books.
    8. The Red Center is where Handmaids go to learn what essentially becomes their career, serving the society’s goal to have children. In A Small Place there is a hospitality school, which teaches the islanders their career: to work in hotels, serving the tourist industry. How do these two schools serve similar objectives?

  6. I really like your topic and think for your idea these texts complement each other very well. I think you will have a lot to write for your paper but with a nice and specific focus. I think the answer to #1 is something very important to include. I personally believe our continuous quest for education is one of the defining features which make us human and separate us from animals.
    #9 How have actual societies attempted to oppress or even limit education? It may be interesting to include in your paper that at one point A Small Place was actually banned in Antigua, thus an attempt to limit and control what the people could learn!

  7. I think that you have a very good topic and are clear about what you wish to write. One question that may prove interesting is:
    10.In these societies devoid of education, how educated do the citizens believe themselves to be and do they perceive it as an actual problem? Of course, from a Western standpoint, we see how this lack of access to education may limit these societies, but are the citizens aware of this?

    While this question may prove difficult to answer, I think it may be interesting to address it somewhat in your paper.

  8. aeernst

    I also really like the connection you made between these two books, but I think it might help if you make some sort of distinction between colonial education and post-colonial education in Antigua because they are different in their effectiveness. Maybe you could consider:
    11) Is it at all significant that the education system in Antigua fell apart after colonialism?

  9. autumncassidy

    I am doing a similar topic, and I found it interesting that although we are addressing the same thematic element, you have done so in a way that starkly contrasts mine. It seems that you have a solid foundation for the content of each novel, but my question is:

    How do the forms of the text influence the reader’s emphasis on the educational impact on the characters (i.e. with /The Handmaid’s Tale/ being told in the form of recollection from a disenfranchised woman vs. /A Small Place/ being a critical essay told from the standpoint of the author, an educated woman free from the constraints of Antigua)?

  10. looloo14

    It seems as though the poor quality of education will catch up with both of the societies over time.
    13. What do you think this means for the future advancement of their nations? Without proper education, do you think the society will disintegrate or stay the same?

  11. I think question 3 is interesting, especially considering how it was confirmed at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale that Gilead did crumble. I think it would be good to examine how strong these governments are controlling a nation of people that are deficient in knowledge.

    14. How would further educations affect the control of these governments? Would they feel more compliant to serve them given this new right or would they just be overthrown?

  12. Sophi

    These books are so different that I would have never thought to make such a distinct connection between them. This is a really great topic choice, especially since it shows that you really thought about how they were related. Something to consider is:
    15.) Education in Antigua is not solely limited to women, but everyone. On the other hand, education in Gilead is limited quite heavily to women. In both Antigua and Gilead, though, members of society (men and women) have certain lifestyles they are accustomed to and are being forced to change them according to the standards of individuals of power. Are such differences and similarities between Gilead and Antigua affected by the members of society or the government? Why do you think this?

  13. ashleighbarraca

    I think you’ve done a great job of connecting two texts that don’t seem very relateable. What I find most interesting is weighing the pros and cons of keeping a population uneducated; it vaguely reminds me of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Something that may be interesting to touch on is, 16) could those who are educated WANT to be uneducated? Is it a “grass is always greener” scenario?

  14. I like your topic a lot, especially since we all know how important it is to receive an education. I like your first question a lot, and would like to see you expand on it more:

    17) How do people who do not have access to an education still manage to become knowledgeable? Is this even possible?

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