Women In The Handmaid's Tale

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Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of a young woman, called, but not named Offred, trapped in the patriarchal society of Gilead in the role of a handmaid to her commander. Offred’s role as handmaid, simply put, is to become pregnant in lieu of the Commander’s wife who is too old to do so. At the novel’s setting, Gilead is still less than a generation old, meaning Offred remembers her life before the institution of new societal standards when she possessed the freedom to choose her own career, education, and romantic partners. Handmaids undergo a boot-camp like training at the Red Center (so called by the Handmaids for the color of the dresses they wear) where they teach proper behavior based on misinterpreted Biblical text.…show more content…
Early on in the novel Atwood provides the reader with a glimpse into Offred’s desire for power over another person—any person. Offred describes young boys guarding the gate not yet old enough to receive wife/handmaid assignments of their own who instead of touching women for themselves “touch with their eyes” (Atwood 22). In an attempt to assert an amount of control over their feelings, she swings her hips as she passes the boys. She then describes the feeling, “I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there” (Atwood 22). Small moments of power similar to this are the only amount of power handmaids can wield. After her account of the ceremony with the Commander and his wife, back in her room applying butter to her face and hands Offred explains how handmaids are afforded no luxuries such as lotion being that they “are containers, it’s the only the insides of our bodies that are important,” handmaids fall victim to objectification and dehumanization. The Commander desires intimacy with a woman. Under the patriarchal ruling, intimacy became obsolete. Wives no longer hold the affection of their husbands as they each have specifically assigned roles in which there is no place for intimacy. In reaching out to Offred to satiate this desire, the Commander reaches out to Offred to meet and develop a relationship outside of their societal duties. Offred sees the Commander’s desire for her as a weakness of his (Atwood 136). For the remainder of the tale, Offred pursues power through other means. She realizes that, while out of her control, the kitchen staff, Cora and Rita, depend on her to get pregnant. Furthermore, Offred begins to take control over her own life. She begins to meet with Nick, she forms alliances with her assigned shopping partner, Ofglen, and begins dwelling on means of suicide as a final act of
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