The Handmaid’s Tale: Limited Rights and Responsibilities

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The novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood exaggerates and embellishes the stereotypical roles of men and women. Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, and activist. Many of her books include some form of feminism, and her protagonists are often women with little rights. The novel takes place in a futuristic United States, renamed the Republic of Gilead. The idea of rights and choice has been almost completely destroyed. People have been brainwashed to do whatever the government tells them. Three main themes in the novel are feminism, gender conflict, and sexuality. Feminism plays a significant role in the novel. Throughout the novel, Offred has flashbacks to her best friend Moira. Moira is rebellious, and her ideas make Offred think about women’s roles in the community compared to how they used to be. Women are taken to a training facility before they are made official handmaids. In the center, they learn how they are expected to act and perform for the commander and his wife. A number of women work in each household to perform the stereotypical functions of what used to be one woman. The handmaids are not allowed to talk to the commander, the wife, or the other handmaids unless there has been a birth or they use the proper greetings and farewells. The handmaids can only say, “Blessed be the fruit” and “May the Lord open” (Atwood 19). “Blessed be the fruit” is referring to a biblical prayer which contains “blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” The main job of the handmaids is to reproduce. Many times, especially with the older commanders, the handmaids cannot reproduce because one of the two people is not fertile. However, the commanders are never blamed for this misfortune; it is always the fault of the han... ... middle of paper ... ...is not fertile, and she really wants to have a child. By this point, the Commander and Offred have preformed many ceremonies, and Offred has yet to become pregnant. Overall, the novel is about the conflicts between men and women. Most men have power and most women do not. The men know that to have a better life, women have to have a worse life. It is an abusive relationship and Gilead’s fear of sexuality later demolishes it. Feminism engulfs the whole book, with something new mentioned every page. Before the regime, Offred’s mom was a feminist. She used to participate in marches and other activist events. Offred was embarrassed of her mom and would ask her to stop. She later learned that her mom was marching for her rights, which were then taken away by the regime. Works Cited Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986. Print.

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