Patriarchy In The Handmaid's Tale

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Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, argues that women are instruments of the patriarchy, that women know this, and that women allow the system of oppression to live on. Her fictions ask, “What stories do women tell about themselves? What happens when their stories run counter to literary conventions or society’s expectations?” (Lecker 1). The Handmaid’s Tale is told through the protagonist, Offred, and allows readers to follow through her life as a handmaid while looking back on how life used to be prior to the societal changes. The novel is set in a dystopian future that illustrates the collapse of the US government, a new theocracy taking over, and how the theocracy has supposedly solved the problem of fertility with the creation…show more content…
Serena may have weaponized sex against Offred, but she still values it. In the beginning of the novel she defines her relationship with the Commander as, “I’m his mistress...Outside woman” saying that it is her duty to “provide what is otherwise lacking” and calling it an “ignominious position” (Atwood 164). By showing the shame Offred feels about her ignominious position in society, it shows that Serena’s oppression and hate has changed Offred’s opinions on intimacy and sex. Another change within Offred is her expression of emotion with that person. Prior to the revolution Offred had a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with her husband, Luke. This contrasts when the Commander makes his advances on Offred, as his advances are virtually unavoidable by Giledean law. Offred describes when the pair set off on an adventure to a club for the Commanders, his request for a kiss was a “sheepish one” and he asks for one but only “‘As if you meant it’” (Atwood 163). Offred shows pity for the men. She never describes men as overtly more powerful than women and never includes how men have changed things, only women. Her sex life is completely regiment by Serena, giving her no room for intimacy without a witness. Atwood uses Serena’s intrusion to show “an early example of Atwood’s emphasis upon the body” in her novels about women to add a focus “with women’s position within power structures that seek to contain them” (Davies 61). This concern is exemplified in Serena’s imposition of an underground relationship on Offred. Atwood’s point in creating such an unusual dynamic of sexual control is a comment on women’s traditional role in society and how demeaning it is. Lucy Friebert says that changing the power dynamic to be sexist is making a “woman’s biology her destiny” and “exposes the complicity of women
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