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Societal Resistance and Control in "The Handmaid's Tale" Essay

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The words control and Gilead, the setting for the novel "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, are interchangeable. Not only is control a pivotal feature of the novel and its plot, it consequently creates the subplots, the characters and the whole world because of its enormity in the Republic of Gilead. Resistance also features heavily, as does its results, mainly represented in the salvagings, particicution and the threat of the colonies.

Control dominates all aspects of Gileadian society, from minor, seemingly petty normalities such as the clothes allowed, all the way up to how and who to have sexual relations with. Unimaginable in this day, Atwood represents modern society gone sour, something which is chillingly close enough to reality to get worried about.

As just mentioned, Uniform is a necessity of Gileadian society, for all layers of the hierarchy, even the top. Commanders wear black, wives blue, whilst the Marthas sport green overalls and the econowives symbolically flaunting their use throughout the home, rather than for one specific task, wearing striped clothing. The Handmaid's themselves wear blood red, a sign of fertility. Each item worn has some significance readying to this fertility even their "flat heeled shoes to save the spine."

"Everything except the wings around my face is red... I never looked good in red, it's not my colour."

The wings worn on the head prevent others from seeing their face and vice versa, prevents them from looking anywhere except the direction in which they are facing, limiting their options to stray. All garments cover every inch of skin; Ankle length skirt, full sleeves and red gloves all worn by the Handmaid's prevent temptation for others and t...


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...rs, drinkers, a piece of the underground past jumps into Offred's life and she is astounded. Thanks to the commander she also meets Moira, her long time friend from before Gilead. This act of resistance from the commander brings Offred a lot and if he were caught, would face serious charges.

Both men and women are severely controlled throughout everyday life in "The Handmaid's Tale." Recreation is minimal, sexual intercourse is purely for creation and the nuclear family is a thing of the past. Elizabeth Atwood provides a dystopian world full of wrong doing, manipulation and emotional numbness stemming from a government in Gilead that controls all aspects of life for it's people. Resistance is rife throughout which is appealing to the reader, implying that even under the severity of such reality, the human spirit will fight for equality or at least fairness.


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