The readers are fully aware that the Commander is one of the founder of the Gilead and is reponsible for horrible acts. “The two others [hanged] have purple placards around their neck. Gender Treachery.” (80) and “Thats when they [the military] suspended the Constitution.” (260) are just two examples of the horrible crimes the Commander (and
The irony of this situation rests in the fact that most of the laws, based on the Bible, of Gilead were enforced in order “to protect women,” yet Offred is not being “protected” due to her fear that the Commander might expel her if she does not sleep with him. “He is not a monster, I think” (Atwood 255). Offred is not trying to think of the Commander in a negative light. She would like to think that he is still a good man. It is the preposterous ruling of the society that has led him to this.
The ironic part about the two characters, The Commander and Aunt Lydia, is their actions, despite their roles in the regime. When Offred and The Commander have one of their first secret meetings, she is surprised that he owns magazines because she “thought such magazines were all but destroyed” and it was where “you would least expect to find such a thing” (Atwood 156). The irony in this is the fact that even The Commander, a person with one of the highest titles in the regime, neglects the rules with no sense of regret. It is also implied in the novel that he had taken another mistress before Offred which shows that his involvement in Offred's story is not the first instance in which he broke the rules. Not only that, but it is told that he is a part of an illegal prostitution organization which is so obviously against the regimes beliefs that if he were caught, he would be hung or worse.
The Commander and the Aunts claim that women are better protected in Gilead, where they are treated with respect and kept safe from violence. However, while Gilead claims to suppress sexual violence, it actually institutionalizes it. An example is Jezebel’s, the club that provides the Commanders with prostitutes to service the male elite. Another example is the Ceremony that compels Handmaids to have sex with their Commanders. Foster suggests, “...sex can be pleasure, sacrifice, submission, rebellion, resignation, supplication, domination, enlightenment, the whole works” (158).
In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the Republic of Gilead actively represses women by forcing them into very narrowly defined, ultra-conservative gender roles. This totalitarian government strips women of all rights and protections, and imposes severe punishments for defiance. Pollution and disease had caused severe infertility in this society, drastically reducing birth rates. In an effort to reverse a drastic population decline, this thoroughly misogynistic and power-hungry regime, takes full control over the human reproductive process. Furthermore, the leadership uses various dehumanizing methods to achieve complete subservience of women to men.
However, Margaret Atwood 's novel, The Handmaid 's Tale, demonstrates how the regime uses religion to create authoritarian laws to control the people of Gilead and maintain order within the society. Nevertheless, most, if not all, characters have been insubordinate towards the laws of Gilead. Therefore, rigid religious influences in society lead to corruption, as proven through the characterization of both Serena Joy and the Commander and the role that the brothel plays within the
In The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, there are many moments that establish Gilead, the fictional world the novel is set in, as a corrupt society. Gilead is incredibly segregationist, with minorities and women specifically being targeted. It has an incredible lack of reproductive rights for women, and sexual shaming and blame are very prevalent. Margaret Atwood herself stated that she based The Handmaid's Tale only on events that have happened in the past, so aspects of the novel will always exist and can happen again (Atwood Emma Watson interviews). Like Atwood predicted, themes in this novel are still relevant in today's society.
Through characterization, flashbacks, and point of view, Atwood demonstrates how strict rules lead to the temptation for defiance, despite the possible consequences. In the novel, the majority of the characters seem to acknowledge the strict laws of Gilead, while still not fully obeying them. Though breaking these laws leads to cruel ramifications (e.g. hanging, exile, etc. ), it does not stop members of the society from breaking these said rules.
In the totalitarian and theocratic state of Gilead, Woman who are fertile and thus still retain the ability to reproduce, are assigned to a Commander – A high ranking military official of the Gilead society. The only distinction between these individual fertile women is whose property they belong to. So the handmaid’s names are a combination of the word “of” and the name of their commander. That is why the main character is called Offred, as well as other handmaids being called Ofglen and etc. The aim of this is to strip these women of all their individuality.
Due to the strict leadership of the Commander, many people of Gilead are going to turn rebellious. Atwood’s Novel proves that strict leadership can lead to rebellious acts as shown through the symbolism of the word “Mayday”, the irony of the Commander breaking his own rules, and the narrator’s only way of having fun “breaking rules.” The word “Mayday” a