Conformity In The Handmaid's Tale

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Conformity in the Handmaid’s Tale A Japanese proverb says, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. As seen in several historical events such as the Salem Witch Trials or the Holocaust, this concept illustrates the idea that nonconformity will get punished or suppressed. During the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler’s populist regime led to subservience out of fear because resistance was too dangerous. The results of the Holocaust demonstrates that conformity can lead to dangerous situations and have a major influence on the behavior and actions of people. In Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the Handmaid, Offred, lived in a totalitarian society where feelings and opinions were suppressed, reading and writing banned, and individuality discouraged.…show more content…
When Offred is in the bathtub, the lack of connection she feels with her body is revealed: “Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping” (Atwood 73). Here, she is describing her body as “flesh,” which connotes the separation she feels from her body, as “flesh” is a word often used to describe dead things. The “central object” that she feels “congealed around” is her womb, because the only purpose she feels she has in the society of Gilead is to bear children. This reveals Offred’s lack of motivation to defend her body or her beliefs, and her assimilation to Gilead. As Fredrik Pettersson stated in his criticism, “[Offred] might not have any real belief in the theocratic values, but they affect her life and actions nonetheless.”(8) Even though Offred may disagree with the values of Gilead, she is too fearful to actively oppose the society, and has internalized some of Gilead’s views. When Offred sees the black van coming towards her, Nick tells her that “it’s Mayday” and to “trust” him. Offred is suspicious, “but snatch[es] at it, this offer. It’s all [she’s] left with” (Atwood 294). She is so desperate by this point because failing to stand up to her beliefs has left with no other option. She depended on her friend Moira to fix everything, but since Moira has stopped fighting, they are now both in less than ideal situations. By making her internal beliefs clear and then depicting her conforming to and participating in the society that she so strongly opposed, Atwood demonstrates Offred taking actions that contradict her beliefs because she is afraid to directly defy the society. Consequently, Atwood shows the negative impacts of not protesting when Offred is taken by the van. Her desperateness left her in
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