Gender Roles In Beloved And The Handmaid's Tale

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In Beloved by Toni Morrison and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, abuses of power are used to both challenge and uphold gender roles in a destructive way. The ghost of Beloved in Beloved uses her supernatural abilities to sexually exploit and emasculate Paul D. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the Commander abuses his societal standing to simultaneously take away power from and give power to Offred. The characters in each novel abuse their power to regain their own dignity and sense of self, both believing their actions are helpful rather than degrading. Morrison and Atwood create hierarchical abuses of power to expose the weight of gender roles in times of conflict and to reveal how society shapes identity and identity shapes actions, which therefore upholds unfair and unbalanced power structures.
Morrison’s use of Beloved’s relationship with Paul D. in Beloved reveals a small portion of how racism and slavery can create so much pain that gender roles are challenged in a harmful way, creating a loss of identity. The ghost of Beloved does abuse her power of supernatural abilities and causes Paul D. to feel physically and psychologically weak. However, Morrison creates Beloved as an entity that symbolizes the varying effects of racism and the pain of the past as a whole. This makes her character powerful in a hierarchical as well as supernatural manner. Beloved’s jealousy is what causes her to take advantage of Paul D. She sees his relationship with Sethe as a threat to the family that she wants to create with Sethe and Denver. In an attempt to get Paul D. out of “124,” Beloved begins moving him from room to room, making him unable to feel comfortable in the house. He finally realizes “...the moving was
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Morrison and Atwood both examine how unjust societies and imbalances of societal power lead to a disorientation of gender roles and identity, ultimately discussing the way in which those societies are able to reinforce their oppressive values down through the
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