Identity In Handmaid's Tale

Powerful Essays
Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale depicts the Republic of Gilead in a futuristic setting where, a totalitarian state concerned with the declining birth rates, attained power in a major coup. The theocratic state takes complete control of reproduction among other aspects of women’s freedom by marginalizing the social group. In fact, the Handmaid’s are a select group of fertile, young women whose worth are judged solely on their reproductive abilities in a Commander's household. Written in the 1980’s Atwood addresses the aversive consequences of revitalized religious conservative views that criticized sexuality and feminism to strip women’s rights. Atwood warns her readers that the marginalizing of women through the loss of identity, restrictions…show more content…
While waiting for the Ceremony to begin, Offred reflects, “I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter,”(Atwood 84). Atwood utilizes pseudonyms to indicate the significant connection between name and identity. Offred’s name encompasses the entirety of who she was in the past society. The new name signifies the birth of a new identity, and to eradicate the connections of the past for future women. Offred’s thoughts relieves a glimmer of anguish by drawing connections of her liberal past to remember humanity and remain sane. Indeed, Atwood exemplifies humans taking for granted basic rights as latently important. Although conscious of the implications Offred passively accepts her new name. The naivety of the Handmaids makes Gilead dangerous, as their tyranny has no bounds. Furthermore, the patronymic composition, “Of” and the Commander’s name expresses the objectification of Handmaids as property of the Commander thus dehumanizes the Handmaid and accentuate their absence of personhood. The Handmaid’s lifestyle is equivalent to a slave’s. As property, along with their freedom, they have lost their dignity, individuality, and uniqueness. By allowing Gilead to take a part of the…show more content…
Atwood depicts the importance of language in controlling thoughts by repressing ideas and creating isolation. As Offred faces the new Ofglen, she looks for clues whether or not the new Ofglen is a part of the uprising. They walk to the Wall, and the new Ofglen said, ‘“Let that be a reminder to us,’” Offred then contemplates the meaning of Ofglen’s words and whether to reply “Yes,” or “Praise be,”(284). Offred would say yes if Ofglen was referring to the brutality of the regime, and praise be to follow Gilead’s regime. Atwood’s vague language exemplifies its power to arise conflicting interpretations. An incorrect term causes suspicion of disloyalty. By regulating the choice of language, the Handmaid’s are unable to express their condemning feelings and motives of the society, and is restricted to thought in a biblical sense. Their thought process is self-reinforcing as the Handmaids reciprocate their scepticism. Their lack of communication and inability to trust isolates them, and allows Gilead to prevail without upheaval. The dangers of language intolerance divulge Gilead’s lack of freedom of speech. Offred’s small defiance in utilizing “yes” brought risk. Atwood highlights language shapes the thinking of the society. Their speech and how they conform represents the passivity of their situation; the Handmaids passively receive and fortify the ideology. Similarly as Offred reflects her
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