The Handmaid's Tale Aunts Analysis

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The role of the Aunts in Gilead is not only to train the Handmaids at the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center, but to sustain the rituals of Gileadean society. The Aunts break the spirits of the Handmaids-in-training in order to guarantee their complacency. According to Lee Briscoe Thompson in Scarlet Letters: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Handmaids are isolated from one another not physically, but mentally by being taught how to betray other women. The Aunts teach that “the only storytelling permitted or rewarded are informing on others or testifying against oneself”. This encouragement for betrayal creates an atmosphere of paranoia and fear amongst Handmaids, thereby, ensuring the Handmaids will obey the rules outlined by the Aunts.…show more content…
Women are blamed for being victims of horrific acts, and rape is made out to be ceremonial in nature. However, there is a double-standard in terms of rape. Consider the Particicution that takes place following the Salvaging, where a man – a Guardian – is executed for raping two Handmaids at gunpoint. Directed by Aunt Lydia, a Particicution is when the Handmaids participate in the execution. The Handmaids surround the alleged criminal and are “permitted anything”, meaning they can collectively punish him for his transgressions. This act gives the Handmaids a sense of freedom, and it is in these miniscule opportunities for independence that the Aunts are able to place the Handmaids into complacency. In contrast, the act of rape is not deemed “rape” when it is committed by a Commander to his Handmaid. In fact, when a Commander rapes his Handmaid, it is a state-sanctioned act and justified by the needs of society. Thus, this act of Particicution inconspicuously differentiates the raping of a Handmaid when it is done by a Commander and when it is done by anyone else. Lucy M. Friebert, in her article “Control and Creativity: The Politics of Risks in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale”, notes that “at the Particicutions the Handmaids ritually dismember any man accused of rape. The Aunts supply the rhetoric that arouses the women to savagery”. This barbarity facilitated by the Aunts, shows that their power may be comparable to that of the Commanders in terms of the amount of power they hold over women. In addition, it is significant to note that the Commanders and the Aunts are the only people allowed to read or write. This power goes along with the Aunts’/Commanders’ perversion of biblical verses, as the rituals of society are built on literal interpretations of the Bible. The Aunts repeatedly use biblical phrases to educate the Handmaids on why they are to submit to the
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