In Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, social turmoil after a staged terrorist attack has led to a totalitarian Christian regime. In this dystopian future, the roles of men and women are much different than in today’s society. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are unequal because they have no choice about their bodies, their dress, or their relationships.
In The Handmaid’s Tale there are three types of women: handmaids (the breeders), wives (the trophies), and the marthas (servants.) The narrator of the novel is Offred, who is a handmaid. Handmaids are women with viable ovaries. Every two years, handmaids are assigned to a commander; the leader of the household. Weekly, the handmaid and Commander try and conceive a child through an event called The Ceremony; involving three people, the wife, a handmaid and the Commander. Say no more. Handmaids are held to strict standards, purity, silence, and obedience. A handmaid’s only goal is to bear children.
"Not with standing she shall be saved by childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (Chapter 34, page 198)
Handmaids are seen as “vehicles of childbirth” and if they are unfertile they are not true women. Women without viable ovaries are known as Unwomen. They are women who do not serve any useful purpose and are either emitted to the colonies (dirty “ghettos”) or killed.
Handmaids are not just the society’s wombs: they must be submissive; they cannot speak their mind, even to each other. No matter how much pain one woman is in, she must still follow God’s laws:
"Blessed be the fruit," she says to me, the accepted greeting among us.
"May the Lord open," I answer, the accepted response. (Chapter 3, page 1...
... middle of paper ...
...e wings hide my face, and keep walking. He 's just taken a risk, but for what? What if I were to report him? “(Chapter 3, page 14)
Neither of them are supposed to communicate in any way. The breaking of this rule can have the punishment of death.
Atwood is known for writing about societal issues. The Handmaid’s Tale is no exception. It clearly shows the role of women in a dystopian society and mirrors parts of our culture today. This book may be an extreme version of parts of our culture today, but Atwood used it as a form of exhibition. Everyone playing his or her stereotypical allows you to think and compare to the world around you.
“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” (Chapter 10, page 48)
Atwood writes this as a way of saying that we mustn’t ignore the issues around and uses this book to educate others.
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