A Society's Self Destruction in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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A Society's Self Destruction in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale Many fictitious novels written today mirror real life; this tactic can

provide readers with a sense of formality. Yet in some cases, fictitious novels provide readers with

the shocking realization of a society's self destruction. I believe The Handmaid's Tale, written by

Margaret Atwood, falls in the second category. Issues raised in this novel such as manipulation,

public punishment, ignorance, and pollution are problems we face in the world today. Atwood's

conception of the future encompasses many of these problems, and her use of these extreme

conditions force readers to recognize her book as a warning; against creating the realities of Gilead in

our world today. In the novel, men abuse their power in order to satisfy their personal needs. One

mastermind of the Gileadean Era perfects his control over Offred with each secret visit. As a

handmaid, with the added responsibility of being a companion, she learns of her inevitable servitude

towards her Commander from an old friend. "He's my Commander", I say. She nods. "Some of them

do that, they get a kick out of it. It's like screwing on the altar or something: your gang are supposed

to be such chaste vessels. They like to see you all painted up. Just another crummy power trip." -

page 228 The Commander's Wife also takes advantage of the power she has over Offred's life. In

return for performing the illegal act of having sex with a man other than the Commander, the Wife will

produce a picture of Offred's long-lost child. This form of blackmail cruelly introduces hope to

Offred, a notion which has been foreign to her for many years. She suddenly envisions hope of


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...masterpiece, which will most likely be suitable in every age. The problems she deals with in The

Handmaid's Tale are very real and obvious in our lives today. According to Atwood, it is our duty to

destroy manipulation, inhumane punishment, ignorance and pollution. If her warning is not taken

seriously, these problems may escalate to create the need for a Gileadean society. Drastic needs call

for drastic measures, but is this book our ideal future?


Bibliography 1) Ehrlich, Richard (1992)

"Trying to change a system that creates 'religious' prostitutes". The Vancouver Sun. May 23, 1992.

"Global Issues". Homemaker's Magazine. July 1997 3) Hearst, David (1992) "Russia's Ecological

Holocaust". The Ottawa Citizen. October 8,1992. 4) Reuter (1991) "Public hangings tighten caste

tension in India". The Ottawa Citizen. April 4, 1991.

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