Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

878 Words4 Pages
I Tell, Therefore I Am

In Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, women are subjected to unthinkable oppression. Practically every aspect of their life is controlled, and they are taught to believe that their only purpose is to bear children for their commander. These “handmaids” are not allowed to read, write or speak freely. Any type of expression would be dangerous to the order of the Gilead’s strict society. They are conditioned to believe that they are safer in this new society. Women are supposedly no longer exploited or disrespected (pornography, rape, etc.) as they once were. Romantic relationships are strongly prohibited because involving emotion would defeat the handmaid’s sole purpose of reproducing. Of course not all women who were taken into Gilead believed right what was happening to their way of life. Through the process of storytelling, remembering, and rebellion, Offred and other handmaids cease to completely submit to Gilead’s repressive culture.

“We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semidarkness we would stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths.” (Atwood, p4) The handmaids whisper to each other to exchange information. They engage in this conversation to keep alive the nature of relationships between people. It is very lonely for these women, for they cannot say what is on their mind, they are only allowed pre-approved phrases from Gilead’s authorities Without this contact it would be impossible for the women to reminisce and be comforted. Another way of keeping the past real to Offred is to remember old stories from before the revolution. She spends a lot of her time thinking about her husband Luke and how the city used to look before, “Lilies used to be a movie theater here, before. Students went there a lot; every spring they had a Humphrey Bogart festival with Lauren Bacall or Katherine Hepburn, women on their own, making up their own minds” (Atwood, 25). These small rebellions that Offred and other handmaids participate in are very significant. The simple fact that they choose to engage in these insurgences shows that they still cling on to their more just and free past. They still have a notion of truth and are keeping it alive. Having these passions and feelings causes the structure of Gilead to truly not work, and will probably (The Handmaid’s Tale was left open ended) lead to its demise.
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