The Handmaid's Tale and Family Values

The Handmaid's Tale and Family Values

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The Handmaid's Tale and Family Values


      In the olden days, religion and politics went hand in hand. The

church either ran the land or had a strangle hold on the people. If the

church thought there was one way to do something, one had to do as the

church requested or suffer great penalty. To go against the church was to

go against God, and that meant death. The king was supposed to be chosen by

God to rule the people in the way he commanded. The king was the closest

thing to God on earth.  Monarchs generally ruled hand in hand with the

church. As the monarchy's rein started to come to an end, the church's

tight grip on the citizens slowly started to loosen. With the implication

of democracy, the church lost all real power to make laws and actually

govern the people. The church still held power over peoples' morals, but

without the monarchy's to enforce it the church's found their power

decreasing. In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the government and

the church are interchangeable. The government is what used to be called

the church, they have come together to become one unit of power. The power

of a modern day government with all the knowledge and weapons combined with

the fanaticism of a medieval based church create a dictatorship like none

other. The novel deals with the treatment of children harshly for a society

which views children as their last hope, their most valuable commodity.

Children are taken away from their homes to be given to the privileged, and

women are forced to give birth to babies they can not keep. The society of

Gilead takes the views of a traditional religious monarchy and enforces

them with modern day power.


      In the novel The Handmaid's Tale, there is a place called the "Red

Center", which is a training facility. When one thinks of a training

facility they tend to invision a military base with young soldiers learning

what they need to know to survive. Atwood's  "Red Center" is very similar

to this type of facility; it has soldiers inside the facility and people

are being taught how to survive. Women in the "Red Center" are being taught

how to become submissive to the new order.

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Related Searches

The "Red Center" is the place

they take women who they believe are prime child bearers, and the women are

taught how to become Handmaids. A Handmaid is a woman who goes into a home,

usually of a high ranking official, to get pregnant because in this age of

pollution and death, may people are unable to procreate. The Handmaids are

sent to live in the homes and take the name of the male in the household,

where their goal is to become pregnant. If she does not within three terms

in three separate houses she is no longer considered "helpful" to society

and may be sent away to the colonies to live out the rest of her life

cleaning up radioactive waste.


      In modern times when a couple is not able to have children and is

not eligible for adoption, one possible choice is the use of a surrogate

mother. A surrogate mother is when the husbands sperm is injected into

another fertile female, who then gives birth to the baby and gives the it

to the couple. This practice is not all that common but still can be found

happening in various places around the world. The use of a surrogate mother

often leaves emotional scars for the biological mother and can possibly end

up in the courts if the she changes her mind, and wishes to keep the child.


      Children in Giliead are a valuable commodity. Custody of a child

depends not on birth rights, but on power and status of an individual. In

the early years of Gilead, a child could have  easily been taken away from

a family and given to a powerful commander or anyone of high status. As the

years went by, the under class were simply not able to have any children,

the right reserved for only the rich and powerful. Any woman who had the

ability to have children were taken away from there homes and forced to

become Handmaids for the elite. The public was told that it was all for the

good of the society, and if anyone resisted, they were delt with quickly

and harshly. This was no longer a democracy. Families were torn apart with

no hope for reconcile. Custody depended on status only.


      In our society Custody is almost always given to the birth parents.

Sometimes custody can be taken away from a couple if  they have proven

themselves unfit parents. Custody can be given to the state or it can be

given to other family members if they apply for it. Each year, cases of

children being taken out of the homes of their unfit parents and being

given to there grandparents or other such relatives increases. As social

conditions and the ability for parents to remain fit decrease, the rate of

grandparents applying for custody of their grandchildren increases.


      The political structure of Gilead is based around the church. The

laws are devised through religion and democracy is no longer  valid.

Society has reverted back to the medieval days when the church and the

monarchy ruled hand in hand and where a minuscule upper class controlled a

huge lower class. The values of Gilead have reverted back to a holy

conservative view, where men have a higher status than women and where

classes are very distinct.


      In modern day North America, the liberal views of the sixties and

seventies are being shot down with mass aggression, as every major United

States President candidate since 1988 has used traditional family values as

there main platform in running for office. Politicians like Dan Quale are

condemning the single parent household and speaking out against such single

parent role models such as Television's Murphy Brown. In Canada, three

members of Preston Manning's Reform party were kicked out of the caucus for

speaking out against homosexual rights and supporting the more traditional

view of strait only marriages. As more and more politicians use traditional

values of the fifties as a platform to get elected into office, more and

more liberals get fed up with the political system because they feel that

there is no candidate that expresses their opinions. Because most

politicians feel that most of the voting population is conservative, they

try to increase their chances of getting elected by trying to appeal to the

conservative majority. This causes a lack of options for voters if the

candidates have basically the same stance on the issues.


      Common threads between Gilead and our own society are easily found

if one looks closely enough. The possibility of things

common in our every day society taken out of control by fanatics is not all

that hard to comprehend. It is possible that the chain of events that lead

a society to Gilead has already started to happen. The make believe future

world of Gilead is just that, make believe, but the possibility of

extremists taking us to a similar point is very real. Incidents like the

Oklahoma bombing, the stand off in Idaho with right wing radicals, and the

Unibomber should show us that people with radical ideas are willing to use

force to get their views out to the public. Such shows of force and extreme

ideas are exactly how the society of Gilead was founded.
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