Essay PreviewMore ↓
To live in a country such as the United States of America is considered a privilege. The liberties that American citizens are entitled to, as declared in the Constitution, makes the United States an attractive and envied democracy. It would be improbable to imagine these liberties being stripped from American society. However, Margaret Atwood depicts the United States as a dystopian society in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The first society is modern America, with its autonomy and liberal customs. The second, Gilead, a far cry from modern America, is a totalitarian Christian theocracy which absorbs America in the late 1980s in order to salvage it from widespread pollution and a dwindling birthrate. The principal flaw in Atwood’s Gileadian society is the justification of human rights violations. This justification only limits the liberties citizens experience, and taunts their once freeing rights, such as the prerogative to explore sexuality. Gilead’s only freedom, is freedom from all other liberties, or as Aunt Lydia would describe, freedom from the anarchy that unveiled in the first society.
The novel’s protagonist, Offred, uses two sets of images to recount the vast difference between a “freedom to” society, and a “freedom from” society. She recalls to the reader a photographic clarity of her previous life as an American woman with liberties, and also those of her present life as a handmaid, or slave to the Republic of Gilead. Aunt Lydia, who is responsible for teaching the enslaved women of Gilead how to be handmaids, attempts to fill the women
with disgust for the dangers of outlawed practices, such as pornography, adultery, and abortion, while encouraging admiration towards the only reason for handmaid’s at all, fertility and
pregnancy. These outlawed practices that Gilead forbid however, are human rights that the citizens of the first society, modern America, were given “freedom to.”
Offred has the “freedom to” explore her sexuality in modern America. Though she would have been hanged in Gilead for her adulterous acts with Luke, Offred was able to be absorbed by passion and love in the former United States. According to Aunt Lydia, free love and lust however, are some of the reasons anarchy occurred. "There's more than one kind of freedom," she tells the handmaids: "Freedom to and freedom from.” “In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underestimate it" (Atwood, 24).
How to Cite this Page
"The United States as a Dystopian society in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Aug 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- In the Days of Anarchy To live in a country such as the United States of America is considered a privilege. The liberties that American citizens are entitled to, as declared in the Constitution, makes the United States an attractive and envied democracy. It would be improbable to imagine these liberties being stripped from American society. However, Margaret Atwood depicts the United States as a dystopian society in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The first society is modern America, with its autonomy and liberal customs.... [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid's Tale]
1122 words (3.2 pages)
- ... Another similarity between Atwood’s novel and our society today is the repressive rules for the women. In Pakistan women have little to no rights. The policies that the Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale is similar to the rules Pakistan have for their women. In the Gilead society the handmaids have to cover up their bodies, wear long dresses, and cover their faces with vial’s and wings. These rules for the women are the same if not similar in Afghanistan, India, and some south Asian countries. In Pakistan women can be raped and if no evidence is found to prove it was rape the men could get away with it and the women could be charged with pre-marital sex and sentence to prison.... [tags: rights, religious, politics]
1016 words (2.9 pages)
- A Society's Self Destruction in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale Many fictitious novels written today mirror real life; this tactic can provide readers with a sense of formality. Yet in some cases, fictitious novels provide readers with the shocking realization of a society's self destruction. I believe The Handmaid's Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, falls in the second category. Issues raised in this novel such as manipulation, public punishment, ignorance, and pollution are problems we face in the world today.... [tags: Papers]
1358 words (3.9 pages)
- In a world full of structure, the slightest wrong move could very well be one’s last. The opportunities are endless, but the risks are dangerously high. Kathleen Cameron stated, “Imagine a society where women are tortured and killed for disobeying this law- a society where religious beliefs, the political structure, and female sexual identity are so intertwined as to justify and require the control of women’s freedom, the sexual victimization of women, and the torture and murder of women who do not comply” (298).... [tags: The Handmaid´s Tale, Margret Atwood, society]
1496 words (4.3 pages)
- Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Imagine if you can, living in a world that tells you what you are to wear, where to live, as well as your position and value to society. In Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, she shows us the Republic of Gilead does just that. Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid, whose usefulness is her ovaries. Handmaids are ordered to live in a house with a Commander, his wife, and once a month attempt to become pregnant by the Commander.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Atwood Margaret Essays]
1784 words (5.1 pages)
- I Tell, Therefore I Am In Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, women are subjected to unthinkable oppression. Practically every aspect of their life is controlled, and they are taught to believe that their only purpose is to bear children for their commander. These “handmaids” are not allowed to read, write or speak freely. Any type of expression would be dangerous to the order of the Gilead’s strict society. They are conditioned to believe that they are safer in this new society. Women are supposedly no longer exploited or disrespected (pornography, rape, etc.) as they once were.... [tags: Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale]
878 words (2.5 pages)
- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale In "The Handmaid's Tale", Margaret Atwood tells a saddening story about a not-to-distant future where toxic chemicals and abuses of the human body have resulted in many men and women alike becoming sterile. The main character, Offred, gives a first person encounter about her subservient life as a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a republic formed after a bloody coup against the United States government. She and her fellow handmaids are fertile women that the leaders of Gilead, the Commanders, enslave to ensure their power and the population of the Republic.... [tags: Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1236 words (3.5 pages)
- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale The Historical Notes are important in the way we perceive the novel as they answer many important questions raised by the novel and also enhance some of the novels main themes. The first question it answers is the one raised at the end of the novel; that is whether Offred is stepping up into the,'darkness,' or the, 'light.' The reader finds out that Offred escaped Gilead, presumably into Canada, with the help of the,'Underground Femaleroad.' The reader also learns that it was Nick who orchestrated her escape, using his position as a member of the Eyes.... [tags: Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]
978 words (2.8 pages)
- The Handmaid's Tale as a Warning to Society Margaret Atwood's renowned science fiction novel, The Handmaid's Tale, was written in 1986 during the rise of the opposition to the feminist movement. Atwood, a Native American, was a vigorous supporter of this movement. The battle that existed between both sides of the women's rights issue inspired her to write this work. Because it was not clear just what the end result of the feminist movement would be, the author begins at the outset to prod her reader to consider where the story will end.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
934 words (2.7 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid Tale Essays]
1418 words (4.1 pages)
Aunt Lydia and the Angels of the Gileadian society forced the justification of human rights violations by comparing the controlled, safe world of the Republic of Gilead to the outside world filled with war, anarchy, and problems. Offred did think she had problems in her days before Gilead. “In the afternoon, when Luke was still in flight from his wife,” before Offred was solidified, she worried what would happen if they were caught in their adulterous acts, or if they were ever going to be happy. It was only after her transfer into a totalitarian society that she realized she was truly happy then, and that her problems in the first society signified “freedom to” feel and experience. Then there was love. Now there are just stains on her mattress, “Like
dried flower petals. Not recent. Old love” (Atwood, 51). There is no other kind of love left in Offred’s room in the Commander’s house. The dried flower petals, Offred compares the stains on her bed to, indicate how times have changed and how sex is no longer out of love, but instead for reproductive purposes. Gilead oppresses love, and justifies the position of the handmaid’s by exploiting their fertility for the salvaging of a dystopian nation. By taking away human will and decision, the “freedom from” society was able to control and instill fear.
With Offred’s periodical sense of longing for the past, it would seem that her will and capacity for emotion would be stained along with her freedom. Offred vividly describes the Handmaid scene in which she is made to lie across the Wife's legs while having impassionate intercourse with the Commander. Offred's picture of herself and body changes drastically from her idea of sexuality in modern America. Her will to feel “freedom to” again however, has not passed. She attempts to evoke passion through sexuality as she had “freedom to” with Luke in modern America. She has a forbidden, but not-so-secret sexual relationship with the Commander’s gardener, Nick. In Gilead sex is no longer an act of pleasure, but of biological necessity. However, with Nick, the performance of sex is defiance against the rules of the “freedom from” society. Offred is risking consequence through her affair with Nick, inducing a “freedom to” choose her fate; inducing human rights. This instance of freedom, as was her affair with Luke in modern America, is when Offred thinks of her body as “an instrument, of pleasure...or an implement for the accomplishment of [her] will” (Atwood, 73). In the present society Offred says she is, “a cloud congealed around a central object [her uterus]” (Atwood, 73).
In The Handmaid’s Tale, it may appear obvious that sex and sexuality are limiting aspects that became a routine practice, or a ritual. However, Offred’s journey comes full circle, from her modern American relationship with Luke, to her affair with Nick in the Republic of Gilead. In modern America Offred has the “freedom to” pursue passion and love with Luke which is a freeing liberty especially because it is an immoral affair. Although her actions are immoral, they are not unlawful. In the Republic of Gilead, Offred wants to recapture that same sense of “freedom to” sexuality. Though her sex with Nick is unlawful, it instead sets Offred free. Her relationship with Nick finds her a way out of Gilead, recapitulating her “freedom to” liberties. The biggest flaw of the Gileadian society is its justification of human rights violations. Gilead could not stop the inherent will for “freedom to” rights. The freeing feeling of sex and the exploration of sexuality is a “freedom to” liberty that is too inherent to be broken. Gilead is flawed from the beginning in its attempts to force a “freedom from” choice, totalitarian society, and forces a resistance to recapitulate the freedoms of the days of anarchy.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Anchor, 1998. 24-73.