The Handmaids Tale Oppression Analysis

1001 Words5 Pages
Amber Illana ENG 308W Professor Pummill 21 November 2017 A Society of Oppression In Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood creates a society of oppression in which she redefines oppression in common culture. Gilead is a society characterized by highly regulated systems of social control and extreme regulation of the female body. The instinctive need to “protect and preserve” the female body is driven by the innate biological desires of the men. The manipulation of language, commodification, and attire, enhances the theme of oppression and highlights the imbalance of power in the Gilead society. The manipulation of language is one of Gilead’s main tools of control over its citizens. Since Gilead is a theocracy, religion permeates…show more content…
Having a child in Gilead was no longer a pleasurable activity, but a privilege, and children were considered valuable commodities as well. Like categories of fruits and vegetables, children were divided into two categories based on their health: “keepers” and “unbabies”, just as women were deemed “woman” or “unwoman” based on their fertility. “There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law” (Atwood 61). In Gilead, procreation is industrialized and the handmaids are reduced to one essential function: reproduction. All other aspects of the women’s sexuality and individualism are outlawed and repudiated. When called to meet with the Commander, Offred ruminates: We are for breeding purposes: we aren’t concubines, geisha girls, courtesans. On the contrary: everything possible has been done to remove us from that category. There is supposed to be nothing entertaining about us, no room is to be permitted for the flowering of secret lusts; no special favors are to be wheedled, by them or us, there are to be no toeholds for love. We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices. (Atwood…show more content…
Alison Martin defines the right to motherhood as “a matter of women’s right to choose whether or not they wish to become mothers in the face of civil recognition that women’s bodies make them potentially mothers” (32). Women in Gilead did not have this right. Rather, their ability to reproduce is their sole means of survival and their bodies are at the disposal of the men. Gilead’s subjugation of women is also evident in their clothing. The roles of the women in the society were predetermined by the color of their dresses: Handmaids wore red, the Wives wore blue, and green was worn by the Marthas – their individuality and autonomy completely stripped from them. The handmaids’ dresses were referred to as a habit and was similar to the hijabs worn by Muslim women: covering them from their wrists down to their ankles, with the only skin visible being their neck and face. Offred compares the habits to the blouses worn by Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn: They wore blouses with buttons down the front that suggested the possibilities of the word undone. These women could be undone; or not. They seemed to be able to choose. We seemed to be able to choose, then. We were a society dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice. (Atwood
Open Document