Essay on The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Essay on The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood

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In Margaret Atwoods ‘The Handmaids Tale’, we hear of one women’s posting ‘Offred’ in the Republic of Gilead. A society based around Biblical philosophies as a way to validate inhumane state practises. In a society of declining birth rates, fertile women are chosen to become Handmaids, walking incubators, whose role in life is to reproduce for barren wives of commanders. Older women, gay men, and barren Handmaids are sent to the colonies to clean toxic waste.
Fear is power. Fear is ever-present in Gilead; it is implemented through violence and force. It is through fear that the regime controls the Gileadian society. There is no way Offred, or the other Handmaids can avoid it. The dead bodies hanging on the wall are a relentless reminder of what rebellion and conflict result in. The abuse of power is also present in chapter fifteen after Moira attempts to escape, she is taken to the old science lab and has her feet beaten with steel frayed wires and is then left on her bed ‘’Moira lay on her bed as an example.’’ (pg. 102 ) She is an example of what rebellion results in. Therefore, creating fear in the other Handmaids.
The Handmaids are treated like cattle, aunts use cattle prods to gain power and assert authority over the Handmaids. Aunts have so much power over them, that they are able to control them at a blow of a whistle to kill someone in the mass salvaging’s. The salvaging’s are another a way to provoke fear in order to gain more power over the Handmaids. Handmaids are branded like cattle, a numerical tattoo on their ankle comprising of an eye and four digits; prevents them from escaping. Offred refers to it as ‘’ A passport in reverse.’’ (pg. 75 ) this reference implies that there is no escape or leaving her situation...


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...ng to begin with as three stories are being recounted; her time at the Red centre, the ‘time before’ and her time as a Handmaid. Atwood continuously uses flashbacks and often switches back and forth to the past, distant past and present. The situation she describes in the opening chapter gives us the impression that the story is set in the distant future. However, as the story progresses we learn that the time-period is much closer than we first predicted. Offred continuously involves the reader, she directly addresses us and anticipates our response and even feels she has to justify some of her actions. Atwood is preparing us for the revelation in the Historical notes that Offred is recounting her story into a tape recorder. The story is open ended; we are not told what exactly happened to Offred, Atwood does this in order to have more of an impact on the reader.

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