Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

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Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale


Love of God replaces love of humanity in Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred’s recollections of her past life, especially of her husband, are ones filled with passion and happiness as she remembers his tenderness towards her. Much more emphasis is put on the physical human form in her memories; she often remembers lying with her husband while she wears little or no clothing. Appreciation of the human form is an essential component of loving humanity. Offred remembers the love she felt for her friends with whom she enjoyed spending time and conversing. When her friend is taken away, Offred spends much time mourning the loss of this person from her life. She also longs, throughout the novel, to be reunited with her husband. While she has not seen him in years, his memory lives strong in her mind, and she can often imagine him arriving at the Commander’s house and rescuing her. Her memories almost all revolve around human interaction because that is what she cherished most and that is what society held to be most important. But that was before the religious revolution.

The new era of government ushers in a time where humanity is meaningless and the world revolves around God. One example of this is the sex ritual that Offred has to undergo with the Commander. Sex is the ultimate expression of humanity, but she is forced into doing it without any sort of emotion. Furthermore, Offred’s needs as an individual are petty and insignificant throughout Atwood’s work. Offred is expected to keep qualms and concerns to herself and to obey the strict lifestyle laid out for her. Additionally, the human form is not something to be celebrated in this new world, but it is rather something to be...


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...she did not die in the novel, she gave up her body for the continuation of mankind. What better martyr, I thought, than Jesus Christ himself. After much thought, I decided upon Giotto’s rendition of Christ on the cross from the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy.

I faced a major challenge in picking the paintings, apart from my utter lack of knowledge of art history. Each of these paintings was done with such precision and care that the artist likely loaded each one with symbolism and deeper meanings which would not be applicable to The Handmaid’s Tale. As an example of this, my friend who had studied Picasso’s “Guernica” launched into a lengthy description of what the painting meant, when I only used it for the image of war that it projects. Clearly many of these paintings carry baggage that is unwanted for my purposes, and this is a challenge that I face as the author.

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