The Handmaid’s Tale Essay

The Handmaid’s Tale Essay

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Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, like so many other dystopias before it, seeks to warn of disaster to come through the lens of its author’s society. In the breadth of its dystopian brethren, Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale reflects not a society destroyed, but a society reorganized to disastrous effect. The reorganization of Offred’s world is not one of simple misogyny, corruption, or political ideas, instead, as in 1984; the focus of this new world order lies in the destruction of the individual and with that, all concepts of personal gain, satisfaction, and desire. In its place, the new world order thrusts a quasi-communist idea of community. Personal sacrifice is instilled in the populace as the greatest good, and the death or misery of one individual is negligible when compared to the decided ‘good’ of the community. In a true echo of communism, the handmaids bear children for those who cannot, truly in the stead of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” (Marx). In this Americanized distortion of communism, the community is placed on a pedestal above all else, and through this emphasis the cross-class destruction of individuality is assured. By echoing the most prominent issue of the time, communism, and detailing it with unique aspects of American society, Atwood creates a realistic nightmare that warns not of the dangers of a particular political ideology, but of the loss of individual identity and the concept of self.
The first people to have their individuality stripped away are, perhaps surprisingly, not the women of Offred’s world, but the low ranking men. This destruction of masculine individuality begins long before the events of the book...


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...as A Handmaid’s Tale’s most potent warning. With Gilead, the dangers of deifying society at the cost of its people are shown to be damning, dooming the society to eventual collapse and obscurity. In this, Atwood argues against excessive ideas community and for individualism and a reasonable amount of selfishness, as Ayn rand puts it, “man’s right to exist for his own rational self-interest” (Rand 42). By creating a world of such individual belittlement, Atwood provides a powerful example of the dangers something much like communism, the destruction of the self.



Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret Eleanor. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Ballantine, 1985.
Print.
Marx, Karl Heinrich. Critique of the Gotha Program. Moscow: Progress, 1970. N.
pag. Print.
Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: Signet, 1970. WorldCat. Web. 7
Feb. 2012.

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