Essay PreviewMore ↓
The Religious Right and The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States. A religious extremist right-wing movement assassinated the president and congress and took complete control of the government. The constitution was suspended and liberties revoked. Women found themselves completely subordinated in the new regime, generally assigned to the legal care of a male "guardian."
Offred, the main character of the story, was fortunate in many ways. Because she was still fertile, she was not branded an "Unwoman" and sent to the "Colonies," where thousands of individuals deemed undesirable by the government were sent to toil in toxic plants and agricultural camps. Instead, her fate was to become a "handmaid." Birthrates were declining in the republic, so a fertile female became a prized commodity. Since Offred had been divorced prior to the revolution, the religious leaders controlling the government saw fit to take her from her second husband and child and assign her to a "guardian," a high ranking male. Her sole purpose in life with the guardian was to become pregnant. Once a month an insemination ceremony would take place, during which the guardian would attempt to impregnate Offred while his wife read passages from the bible to them. All three remained clothed and there was no passion involved.
In the course of her life as a handmaid, Offred discovers more about Gilead. Her secondary duty (after getting pregnant) was to go into town each day and purchase food. She gradually makes contact with another handmaid, Ofglen, who introduces her to the underground movement against the republic. She eventually becomes involved in a number of illegal activities, and eventually is forced to try and escape.
The Handmaid's Tale is really about the role of women in society. If it were possible to eliminate women from Gilead, it seems that the republic would have done so. Instead, they are reduced into doing the one thing for which Gilead can find no substitute -- producing children. They are so reduced that they cannot even feel passion or enjoy sex. Infertile women have it even worse; they are not considered to be women at all, and are deported or killed. The message is that women are needed to continue humanity but that they are to have no other role in the society that they allow to exist.
How to Cite this Page
"Essay on the Religious Right and The Handmaid's Tale." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Nov 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, explores the concept of a dystopian totalitarian Christian theocracy, the Republic of Gilead, that overthrows the United States government at an unspecified point in the near future. Gilead enforces a highly controlled patriarchal and militaristic society based on fundamentalist biblical principles. This new order is necessitated by widespread infertility caused by toxic pollution and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as many women ceasing to want children.... [tags: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood]
2094 words (6 pages)
- A Handmaid's Tale A new society is created by a group of people who strengthen and maintain their power by any means necessary including torture and death. Margaret Atwood's book, A Handmaid's Tale, can be compared to the morning after a bad fight within an abusive relationship. Being surrounded by rules that must be obeyed because of being afraid of the torture that will be received. There are no other choices because there is control over what is done, who you see and talk to, and has taken you far away from your family.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1650 words (4.7 pages)
- Portents of the Monotheocracy in The Handmaid's Tale American society has had certain cultural and political forces which have proliferated over the past few decades-described as the return to traditional Christian values. Television commercials promoting family values followed by endorsements from specific denominations are on the rise. As the public has become more aware of a shift in the cultural and political climate through the mass media, Margaret Atwood, in writing The Handmaid's Tale, could have been similarly affected by this growing awareness of the public consciousness.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
2420 words (6.9 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1273 words (3.6 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)
- The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaids Tale, written by Margaret Attwood, goes on to explore the consequences that come to be from the reversal of womens rights in a society called Gilead. It is what one can consider a cautionary tale. In the new world of Gilead, a group of conservative religious extremists have taken power, and have turned the sexual revolution upside down. The society of Gilead is founded on what is to be considered a return to traditional values, gender roles and the subjugation of women by men, and the Bible is used as the guiding principle.... [tags: Margaret Atwood Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1987 words (5.7 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1495 words (4.3 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)
- A Society of Oppression in A Handmaid's Tale As the saying goes, 'history repeats itself.' If one of the goals of Margaret Atwood was to prove this particular point, she certainly succeeded in her novel A Handmaid's Tale. In her Note to the Reader, she writes, " The thing to remember is that there is nothing new about the society depicted in The Handmaiden's Tale except the time and place. All of the things I have written about ...have been done before, more than once..." (316). Atwood seems to choose only the most threatening, frightening, and atrocious events in history to parallel her book by--specifically the enslavement of African Americans in the United States.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
758 words (2.2 pages)
- The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Offred is a Handmaid in what used to be the United States, now the theocratic Republic of Gilead. In order to create Gilead's idea of a more perfect society, they have reverted to taking the Book of Genesis at its word. Women no longer have any privileges; they cannot work, have their own bank accounts, or own anything. The also are not allowed to read or even chose who they want to marry. Women are taught that they should be subservient to men and should only be concerned with bearing children.... [tags: Handmaid's Tale Essays]
1097 words (3.1 pages)
Atwood's work can be taken as a warning about the dangers of a patriarchal society and the dogma of the religious right. Realistically, the scenario presented in this book is impossible. The safeguards built into the system would prevent such an occurrence. But maybe Atwood's work could alternatively be perceived not as a warning but rather as a reflection (albeit an extreme one) of the past. Patriarchal institutions have controlled most cultures for thousands of years. Women may have been allowed to do other things, but arguably their primary purpose, according to the conventions of society, was to have children and propagate humanity. The Handmaid's Tale could be a warning about the future, but it is also certainly a cry to the injustices of the past.