What would become of the world, if our current societal flaws, such as sexism, racism, and classism were ingrained and executed at a systematic level? This is exactly what The Handmaid’s Tale set out to explore. The novel, which claims to be speculative fiction, is set in the theocratic Republic of Gilead (formerly the USA), where birth rates are rapidly declining and women have been marginalized by the patriarchal regime, forbidden to read, write or love and valued only if they are able to procreate. They are separated into classes, including Wives, Marthas, Aunts, Unwomen, and Handmaids, distinguishable only by the color of their clothing. The Handmaids are renamed by combining ‘of’ and the name of the Commander that they have been assigned to, stripping them of any individuality.
The craving for power over another person or group is an innate sense imbedded within people who seek to progress through the ranks of the social ladder. Dominance has consequently been the underlying motivation. Eventually, these conflicts lose significance and are often resolved in some manner. However, one issue left unsettled is the clash between genders: male and female. This divide has historically been unequal, almost always where men declare superiority over women.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, the oppression of women was the absolute first thing that stood out. The exposing of handmaids inabilities The women that were not able to produce babies such as Offred were sent to this Nazi type regimes called the colonies. There were Guardians or “secret police” watching all of the Handmaids at all times. The Republic of Gilead did something called “Men’s Salvaging”, which occurred when either men, but mostly women got penalized from doing something forbidden and they got hung and killed. Women weren’t able leave their households unless they were going shopping for food.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The protagonist, narrator, and handmaid Offred lives in a dystopian world where a theocracy, Gilead has taken the place of the United States government, and women have lost all of their rights. Offred has been forced to become a handmaid, but dreams of escape. In the essay we will be looking at how certain themes in the novel can be applied to the wider society, more specifically how women are oppressed.
Women are not oppressed! Any person who does not live under a rock knows this is not true, and authors are no exception. The job of any good author is to abstractly interpret world events and issues through their literary and provide a philosophical and socio-political outlook (Malak. 11), this is especially true authors of Dystopic novels. Writers like George Orwell and Margaret Atwood, use their works to depict social issues and political issues like sexism (Atwood), and surveillance (Orwell and Atwood) in society.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood portrays a dystopian society which forces women into reproductive slavery to warn of the dangers of a Christian fundamentalist patriarchal government. These women, handmaids, have no rights and are raped by their owners, otherwise known as Commanders, every month in hopes of elevating the depleting birth rates. Offred, the main character and handmaid, only wants two things: her freedom and her daughter, but both were stolen from her. Women in Gilead, like Offred, are not seen as individuals, but resources with their most valuable asset lying between their legs. This demeaning viewpoint of women is horrifying in that it shares perspective with current misogynists and politicians.
Some of these methods include destroying identity through classification, objectification, and indoctrination. Most women of Gilead are sufficiently repressed that they seem to accept their assigned roles, at least outwardly resigned to their fate. Atwood uses gender roles in The Handmaid’s Tale to show the lengths to which misogynistic totalitarian governments will go, to protect their dictatorships. The Republic of Gilead is a hierarchical society which requires complete submission of women to men. By taking away women’s paid jobs, confiscating their property, draining their bank accounts, and giving them no recourse, the male leadership leaves women in a fully dependent and subservient position.
In this written text, the emphasis will be on Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale and as well as the way Atwood portrays women and how it can be argued to show the oppression of women. The main purpose is to analyze the way women are treated throughout this book and depict why they are represented this way in the society in Gilead. Then, comparatively, observe the men’s domination over women and how they govern this society. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are stripped of their rights, suffer many inequalities and are objectified, controlled by men and only valued for their reproductive qualities. The Gilead society is divided in multiple social group.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood allows and almost disturbs the readers to question if they are truly satisfied with their lives and the society they are living in, and conveys to the readers that our society needs change and improvement. People nowadays believe that gender equality is necessary since the topic is so often discussed. The fact that people believe in this shows how much progress our world has made. However, it is so easy for us to forget the real reason behind this general statement; Why do we truly need gender equality? This question is the background to Atwood’s main message and her opinion on women’s oppression.
In the Handmaid 's Tale power is used to control the women and sort them into certain gender roles. Each women in the society of Gilead is assigned a certain job that is stereotypical of a woman 's job such as cooking, sex, and reproduction. These women are the lowest class in Gilead and have no control. The men have superior power of the women but the women such as Ofgeln and Offred gain control in power in their lives. Men have an upper hand in the control of these women.
In Margaret Atwood’s novel, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Moira is depicted as the symbol for resistance to authority and represents hope to the Handmaids. Atwood presents her as a polar opposite to Offred. She is independent, strong-willed, and outspoken. Conversely, the pair can be argued to be doubles in the fact that they both ‘resist’ to the oppressive Republic in Gilead.
Often, we see a society’s cultural values reflected in its citizens. For example, the United States values equality, a standard that is shared in all facets including gender. The opposite is true of Gilead, a fictional society in Emily Bronte’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The novel’s main character, Offred, is subjected to degrading treatment simply because she is a woman. It becomes apparent that this repeated degradation has affected the protagonist’s mind.
Throughout history, women have often been subjected to prejudice and an inferior status to men. Due to sexist ideologies of men believing that women are not capable of controlling their own lives, women have often been reduced to the status of property. This concept is prominent in many pieces of literature to demonstrate the struggles women have to go through in a predominantly, male structured world. In the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, the author illustrates a woman’s battle in an extreme society ruled by men to express the misogyny occurring in the time period when it was written, 1894. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia summarizes Atwood’s story as one that “depicts one woman’s chilling struggle to survive in a society ruled by misogynistic fascism, by which women are reduced to the condition of property.”
There were limits but my body was nevertheless lithe, single, solid, one with me. Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.” (Atwood 91). This makes the reader believe that Offred has given into the social injustice at Gilead being the oppression of women.
Furthermore, the author displays a dystopian society completely dominated by a totalitarian and theocratic state. The main subject of this novel is the role assigned to women, mainly represented by the handmaids. In Gilead, the made-up country where the novel takes place, women are completely subjected by the government, and especially by men, who clearly have a higher status than women. Moreover, women’s freedom is entirely restricted, as they cannot leave their house at their will, they are forbidden to hold properties or jobs, they cannot read or write, and they are treated as sexual slaves whose only purpose in life is to bear children for elite spouses. The other option is a miserable, short life at the Colonies (a type of concentration camp), and death.