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Essay about The Handmaid's Tale: Plot Analysis

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The Handmaid's Tale is written by Margaret Atwood and was originally published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985. The novel is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of a new totalitarian theocratic state society that is terrifying and horrific. Its main concentration is on the subjugation of women in Gilead, and it also explores the plethora of means by which the state and agencies gain control and domination against every aspect of these women's lives. Restrictive dress codes also play an important factor as a means of social order and control in this new society.

Offred, not her real name but the name given to her by her occupation, is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. The Republic of Gilead is a totalitarian dictatorship and theocratic state that has won victory by means of military coup, thus replacing the former United States of America. This new Republic is ruled through Christian Biblical Fundamentalism with an extremist restriction and enforcement on all aspects of social-economical and political live.

In Gilead, perhaps because of the former United States past histories of reckless miss care for the environment and secret biological experiments there is result of dangerously low reproduction rates. The population is extremely low and people in Gilead find it very hard to get pregnant and bear successful healthy babies to perpetuate the species.

To this end, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for Commanders and other Offices or members of the elite that cannot conceive naturally. The protagonists and narrator is a female named Offred. The given occupational Handmaid alias of Offred simply means she is ‘Of her Commander who is named Fred'. Offred is an intellectual woman, s...


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...ire Gilead society was built on order, structure, discipline, and consequences. When Serena voluntarily crosses the line by asking Offred to illegally sleep with Nick she is simultaneously compromising herself, Offred, her Commander and Nick.

In the novel, Moira epitomizes the female resistance to Gilead. Not only is she a lesbian, which is indicative of the fact that she rejects male-female sexual interactions (the only ‘proper' relationship in the eyes of Gilead) she is also only character who stands up for the truth and has the audacity and courage to attack authority stabbing a uniformed Aunt and doing two attempts at escape. When Offred runs into Moira at Jezebels however, Moira's fighter spirit has been broken, and she has become resigned to her fate. This is meant to show what horrors the state is capable of: crushing the human spirit and shredding its will.


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