Essay on Margaret Atwood 's The Handmaid 's Tale

Essay on Margaret Atwood 's The Handmaid 's Tale

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Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is a story heavily influenced by the Bible and has many biblical themes that are used to prove Atwood’s belief in balance. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead which was formerly the United States. The story is told through the perspective of a handmaid named Offred and begins when she is placed at her third assignment as a housemaid. Offred describes her society as a fundamentalist theocracy where the Christian God is seen as the divine Ruler over the Republic of Gilead. Atwood is often thought of as a feminist writer but through this novel her writing is not completely feminist nor patriarchal but something in the middle. Atwood is also someone who described herself as a “strict agnostic” in an interview with Bill Moyer and goes on to explain how she believes what matters is how people use their belief system, whether or not religion is used for the better of society. Through this The Handmaid’s Tale can be seen as a critic not a religion, feminism, or the patriarch but on extremism.
In this future society Offred introduces the fact that people in Gilead are divided into separate groups, which have different jobs in society, Offred’s being a Housemaid. A housemaid is a concubine that is assigned to live with a Commander (of the Faith) and his Wife. The Handmaid’s role is to produces Keepers (babies that are born without any birth defects) for their host family. Housemaids are made to wear all red besides their nun like white wings that work as blinders. The red represents passion and sin that can be turned white by the cleansing power of God. Commanders are the patriarchal head of the house who have a duty to father children either by their Wife or a Handmaid if needed...


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... to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” In this way the Marthas are named after this Martha who is made to serve. The use of Handmaids is also justified according to the Bible when Rachel who is unable to bare children offers her handmaid to Jacob to conceive for her. “And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

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