The Handmaid's Tale as a Biblical Allusion Essay

The Handmaid's Tale as a Biblical Allusion Essay

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The Handmaid's Tale: A Biblical Allusion


Imagine a country where choice is not a choice.  One is labeled by their age and economical status.  The deep red cloaks, the blue embroidered dresses, and the pinstriped attire are all uniforms to define a person's standing in society.  To be judged, not by beauty or personality or talents, but by the ability to procreate instead. To not believe in the Puritan religion is certain death.  To read or write is to die.  This definition is found to be true in the book, The Handmaid's Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood.  It is a heartbreaking story of one young woman and her transformation into the Gilead society, the society described above. In the book, we meet Offred, the narrator of the story.  This story is not the first to create a society in which the only two important beliefs in a society are the ability to procreate and a strict belief in God.  It is seen several times in the Old Testament, the Bible.  The Biblical society is not as rigid as the Republic of Gilead, which Margaret Atwood has built, but it is very similar.  The Handmaid's Tale holds several biblical allusions.

The first biblical allusion is that of the Republic of Gilead.  Gilead is mentioned several times in the Bible as a place of fertile lands.  The Bible states, "To the east [the Israelites] occupied the land. . . , because their livestock had increased in Gilead" (Numbers 32:1, NIV) and "The [tribes], who led very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock" (1 Chronicles 5:9, NIV).  The Biblical land of Gilead was a land of prospering livestock.  Families and tribes came to Gilead because of the land's lush, green and fertile soil.  The Republic of Gilead was also...


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...n individual, but each person is noticed only by the clothing that they wear. Imagine a country where the husband is the head of the family, and no other members of the household hold any rights at all.  Imagine a country where reading and writing are crimes punishable by death.  One can imagine, but no one can comprehend the pain and suffering and emotional death that one must acquire to live in a society such as the Republic of Gilead. This story of the future may very well be a story of the past; a story based upon principles found in the Bible, but taken so literally and enforced so strictly that the country becomes a theocracy to hate.

Bibliography

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986.

The NIV Study Bible. Barker, Kenneth: General Editor. Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corporation, 1995

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