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The Handmaid's Dystopia
"The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a dystopia about a world where unrealistic things take place. The events in the novel could never actually take place in our reality." This is what most people think and assume, but they're wrong. Look at the world today and in the recent past, and there are not only many situations that have ALMOST become a Gilead, but places that have been and ARE Gileadean societies. We're not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!
Even today there are places in the world where there is startling similarity to this fictitious dystopia. In Pakistan, women's rights are non-existant, and many policies are that of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale. In Gilead, the handmaids must cover their bodies and faces almost completely with vales and wings. In Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and similar South Asian countries, this is a must for women. Other Gileadean-like persecutions take place towards women. In Pakistan, women can be raped, and unless there is full proof that there was no consent, the man will get off scot free, and the women charged with pre-marital sex and sentenced to a prison term. In Afghanistan, the police force has and continue to torture and rape innocent women for unnecessary reasons. This is similar to The Handmaid's Tale in that Offred, and other handmaids, not only go through the devestation of "The Ceremony", but also can be used and possibly even raped by their Commanders, and there is nothing the handmaid can do about it. If she speaks, she is usually not believed, and then she is sent away because she broke the law. The handmaid would usually die for making such accuasations.
Women are given little to no rights in Gilead. They obey what they are told by the men or by the Aunts (who get their orders from the men). They are not permitted to read or write, or participate in any extra-curricular activity. They are alive only to serve a purpose. In countries such Iran, women are subject to similar laws. Although more recently they may be allowedread and write, it is on a strict level only, and activites are out of the question. There is no specific law against it, however with the Islamic government making it manditory for all women to wear complete body coverings, sports and other activities are nearly impossible.
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Women in Gilead belong to the men. Whether it was Offred, Ofglen, or Ofwarren, they were possessive items. In many Arabic countries, women belong to their husband. Men, in turn, may have many women, which belong to them. They must obey their husbands, or the husband legally has to right to do what he want to his wife.
The Handmaids in Gilead had one purpose: to have babies. However, two-thirds of the babies were killed because of imperfections. This is very similar to SouthAsian countries. Many babies are killed every day either because of imperfections or because they are just not wanted. In India, female babies have to be killed, reportedly 16 million every year.
"It feels as if you've been turned inside out. You've just given birth and finally you feel emptied. You're exhausted. Your breasts are painfully full of milk. And then you look at your baby. And you see that she's a little girl. And you know that you have to kill her." Replace 'little girl' with unbaby, and it could be an exact account from a Handmaid in Gilead, at the loss of her baby. However, it's a quote from a woman in India in 1996. 1996 in the real world, not Gilead.
Colonial America, back in the 1700's, was very racist and also ran as a theocracy. Especially in New England, religious freedom was not allowed, and people were punished by the courts for religious reasons. Those that weren't a specific type of Christianity were not considered "right." In the South there was also black slavery. Both of these are similar to The Handmaid's Tale because those not of a specific type of Christianity or skin color were sent away, to the colonies, or killed. Baptists were not of the selected religion, as well as Islamics, and Jewish people were told to go back to Israel. Many blacks were killed as well. The fact that Colonial America had slaves is also similar to the slavery of women in the Handmaid's Tale. Whether it was the Marthas serving the household, the wife serving her commander, the handmaid serving as a walking womb, the women of Jezzebel's serving as personal sex slaves for the Commanders, or those in the Colonies serving society, there was obvious slavery in Gilead. Even the lower-class men were slaves, given no freedom.
Today in the United States, there are still groups that believe this. The "Aryan Nations", headquarters in Idaho, are a paramilitary hate group who believe that Anglo-Saxans, not Jews, are not actually God's chosen people, non-whites are just "mud people" at the level of animals, and that Jews are "Children of Satan" There are the KKK and neo-nazis that have similar, Gileadean-like beliefs regarding other races, and this is NOT fiction.
Many religions today twist terms in the Bible to make it work to their advantage, just like the Republic of Gilead did with the Old Testament. Jehovah's witnesses, for instance, believe that Genesis 9, verse 4, which states "But you must not eat meat that has its life-blood still in it" also refers to blood transfusions. This policy and belief has left many children and adults for dead instead of living by getting a blood transfusion. "The Holy Order of Mans", a religion based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, paraphrase many Bible quotes to get people into their cult. Their slogan is "And by their work ye shall know them" from Matthew 7:20, however the ACTUAL Matthew 7:20 states "And by their fruit ye shall know them", referring to fruit trees in a garden. The way that The Order of Mans interprets it is to get all their members to work hard and give all their earnings to the order, and then they will truly know the word of God. The "Foundation Faith of God" takes the statement "Love your enemies" from the Bible and makes it to include Satan. This religion actually combines Christianity with Satanism, but to its followers, it is completely Biblical based on its misquotes. That is just like Gilead, misquoting and twisting around the story of Rachel and Jacob in Genesis to make everything they do seem completely Biblical and right.
Finally, there is the largest and most prominent of all racial biggotry in the world's recent history, the Halocaust of WWII. Adolf Hitler was a sick man, yet a smart man, very similar to the leaders of the fictitious Gilead. Unlike Gilead, however, Hilter's "Perfect World" idea did not quite succeed, however the damage was much greater. Under Hitler, 11 million Jews were killed, and many more sent to concentration camps. In Gilead, Jews were sent away, and if they didn't go, they were sent to the Colonies, where they would eventually die. The Colonies themselves are similar to the concentration camps of WWII, where people would go to, eventually, die. Black people were not considered good in either society. Hitler had them killed, while in Gilead, they were killed or shipped off to the Colonies. Homosexuals were not treated as equals in either society either. In the fictional Republic of Gilead, homosexuals were often killed and hung on the Wall. In WWII, Hiltler ordered all homosexuals to die. They weren't even given the distiction of being slaves, even those that appeared Aryan.
Many Slavs, Poles, and even German women that were not worthy of Aryan status were used in breeding by Hitler, to keep the population going. This is very similar to the Handmaid's Tale because women that were in their second marriage, lesbians, and other non-perfect women that still had viable ovaries were sent to different houses to basically breed and produce healthy children that were then taken away and given to the Wives.
If Adolph Hitler had succeeded in his attempt to take over the world and make it a Nazi Federation, we would all be living in a reality far worse than any Gilead.
Every aspect of the Handmaid's Tale that makes it a dystopia can be found in recent past or in the present around the world. The mistreatment of women, the killing of innocent babies for the good of the state, the racist beliefs and actions, and senseless killings of non-whites, attempts at Theocracies, and religions gaining in strenght, making believers out of paraphrases and outright lies: All of these are in our world, the real world. Margaret Atwood has created a "story" that isn't really a story. It is a representation of all that is wrong with our world today. So, in fact, this imaginative tale is not so far fetched. We are living in it.