Humanity In The Handmaid's Tale

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In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale, humanity is portrayed as a cyclically flawed being. Through the use of extended metaphors, allusions, and flashback descriptions of the past, the world created is meant to reflect reality and the shifts in societies as they occur. However, Atwood’s ultimate purpose is to not only show that nations and cultures collapse and rise in the place of their ancestors, but that this constant push and pull is created by man’s own inability to change.
The depicted, pre-Gilead world shows possible flaws in the generally left-trending political avenues of society, and represents the current world as a whole. Just as in the real world, this fictional world sees an increasing comfort level with sex and businesses
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The majority of the novel sees the Republic of Gilead, rather than the United States, be the mainstay of power. Atwood’s creation of this is a comment on how any movement will create a reactionary movement, from the Reformation creating the Catholic Counter-Reformation, to the conservative movement backlash as a result of the feminist movement. Margaret Atwood shows how easily the opposing side can play on the fears of the populace to gain power, when she describes how “they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time” (174). Just as the feminists played on the fear of not being able to control one’s own body, the fundamentalists play on the fear of an unknown religion, very much reflecting society today. The fact that Atwood described what was occurring at her time, before any of the major terrorist attacks of the 20th and 21st century occurred, supports the idea, not only that Atwood used The Handmaid’s Tale to discuss human cyclicality, but that this idea is a universal one not subject to specifically her writing. Continuing with the idea of cycling societies, the Republic of Gilead is no unique government, and Atwood knows this, and does this on purpose. She models the nation after the Puritanical societies that also dominated New England centuries earlier, using this as a comment on how everything eventually comes back around, and that humans hardly change as much as it seems. What’s more are the many parallels drawn between how women are treated in Gilead, and how slaves were treated. Lauren Rule notes how “specific atrocities of the American experience, atrocities that Atwood authenticates by reviewing the imagery of containment evident in Puritan ideology and horridly intensified in the slave accounts
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