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The Handmaid's Tale Essay

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In Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’, we hear a transcribed account of one womans posting ‘Offred’ in the Republic of Gilead. A society based around Biblical philosophies as a way to validate inhumane state practises. In a society of declining birth rates, fertile women are chosen to become Handmaids, walking incubators, whose role in life is to reproduce for barren wives of commanders. Older women, gay men, and barren Handmaids are sent to the colonies to clean toxic waste.
Fear is power. Fear is ever-present in Gilead; it is implemented through violence and force. It is through fear that the regime controls the Gileadian society. There is no way Offred, or the other Handmaids can avoid it. What used to be Harvard University, a place of knowledge, freedom and hope is now a detention centre, a place where betrayers of Gileadian rules and regulations are sentenced to death and left hanging on the surrounding ‘Wall’ of the university, Offred says “it doesn’t matter if we look, we’re supposed to look: this is what they are there for, hanging on the wall.’’(Pg.42 this clearly illustrates how the Gileadian state uses fear of the death penalty to control. The university becomes a symbol of fear, persecution and brutality, the complete opposite of what a university is meant to represent.
One of the ways the totalitarian regime gains power over the populace is by creating a system of coloured uniforms defining peoples’ hierarchical place in society. In doing so the government successfully separates the people from one another, and are at less risk of the society joining forces and creating a mass rebellion. The regimes uniform system creates hatred within the society towards people who are not of the same social status. The Hand...


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... continuously involves the reader, she directly addresses us and anticipates our response and even feels she has to justify some of her actions, she is a self-conscious narrator. Atwood is also preparing us for the revelation in the Historical notes that Offred is recounting her story into a tape recorder. The story is open ended; we are not told what exactly happened to Offred, Atwood does this in order to have more of an impact on the reader.



Works Cited

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaids Tale, (first pub. 1986) Publish by Vintage London 1996.
Sandra Langdon, The Handmaids Tale, Letts Explore for A level, (first pub.1998)
http://www.novelguide.com/TheHandmaid'sTale/essayquestions.html (accessed 11/10/2011)
Spark Notes Editors. “Spark Note on The Handmaid’s Tale.” Spark Notes LLC. 2003. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/handmaid/ (accessed November 13, 2011).


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