The Role Of Power In The Handmaid's Tale

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The Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a theocratic authoritarian state wherein the citizens are subjected to religious persecution, an unjust legal system, and gender discrimination. There are many mechanisms of societal control and repression discussed throughout the novel, including; public executions, repression of women’s rights, and “The Eyes,” in effect the secret police. By utilizing fear and the public’s desire for safety, the government of Gilead maintains a tremendous amount of power over its citizens. No system is more important to the stability and retention of power for Gilead then public informants. Without public informants to report on their fellow oppressed citizens, Gilead would face an extremely…show more content…
In Stillman’s and Johnson’s article “Identity, Complicity, and Resistance in The Handmaid’s Tale” the concept of derivation of power and responsibility in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is discussed on page two, “To legitimate and enforce the Commanders' power and their exclusive access to Handmaids, Gilead's infrastructure requires a highly developed, complex structure of power, system of indoctrination, and division of labor.” Handmaids, Marthas, Econowives and Commanders are among the classes of society in Gilead. Jane Armbruster’s article “Memory and Politics – A Reflection on The Handmaid’s Tale, describes the importance of this divisional system,
A class system encourages women to control one another. "Wives" of commanders recruit handmaids into their households. "Aunts" train the handmaids, organize their placement into commanders' households, and monitor the compliance of wives and handmaids with their prescribed roles. "Marthas," the housekeepers, have access to information that gives them some leverage over handmaids and wives. "Econowives," spouses of lower-class Caucasian men, are used by aunts as examples of inferiority in handmaid training. All women fear the fate of becoming unwomen.
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