In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale women in Gilead are victims of a totalitarian government who manipulate them to believe that they serve a very important purpose
In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale women in Gilead are victims of a totalitarian government who manipulate them to believe that they serve a very important purpose, which is to bear children but Gilead does not care about their well-being they only care about what sustains their power. Handmaids are not obligated to do the things they use to do in the past and are not allowed to show how they feel because it would be dangerous to not follow Gilead’s strict rules. They are forced to believe that they are safer in this new society since women are supposedly no longer disrespected or mistreated as they once were. Through the narrator’s storytelling and the use of reoccurring flashbacks, Offred and the other handmaids show readers that they are rebelling against society by remembering fond memories of the past. In the Handmaid’s Tale Atwood created a dystopian society to show how women are confined and oppressed of their freedom in order to reveal how women are not equivalent to men.
The Republic of Gilead has suppressed the freedom of women but through the reminiscence of the past Offred is able to rebel against society Atwood does this in order to show how women in society are never truly free as they are constantly fighting for equality. The author uses flashback to make the reader understand what happened to Offred in the past as readers are not familiar with her life before the creation of Gilead.”We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness, we would stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths”( pg 4). The handmaids decide to whisper to one another because they are not allowed to talk to one another, so instead they whisper in order to obtain some normality. It’s very lonely for these women since they cannot say what is on their mind as Gilead possesses complete control over their very lives. Through the remembrance of Offred’s past, it is revealed to readers that her life in the past differs from her current life in Gilead. “I remember the rules, rules that were never spelled out but that every woman knew: don’t open your door to a stranger, even if he says he is the police. Make him slide his ID under the door. Don’t stop on the road to help a motorist pretending to be in trouble” (pg 24). There is a use of diction to reveal in detail how in the past she was free to be educated and wore whatever she pleased and now with a complete lack of freedom she dreams about doing the simple things so that she can obtain control over her life. Offred’s reflection on life before Gilead is the only real sense of power she has and through flashbacks, the readers are able to understand how much freedom she possessed before the creation of Gilead. “I have to let you go, he said it’s the law, I have to. I have to let you all go. He said this almost gently as if we were wild animals, frogs he’d caught, and a jar as if he were being humane” (pg 176). By having these flashbacks she is rebelling against society as she is unable to take control of Gilead but she is able to take control of her memories and reminisce the happy memories she’s experienced in the past to have some power.
One of the many sad aspects of The Handmaid’s Tale is that the women who are victims of abuse and oppression have become accustomed to the the hierrachial roles that have been assigned to them, by allowing abuse to occur against and amongst themselves. In the Republic of Gilead, the regime has taken away any sort of freedom that women had in the past to obtain superior power and control. “I must forget about my secret name and all the ways back. My name is Offred now, and here is where I live. Live in the present make the most of it, it’s all you’ve got. Time to sleep” (pg 143). This quote applies to the motif that connects with identity and how society has manipulated offred to believe that her very own name is worthless. Not only has Gilead taken women’s freedom but they have taken away their identity as they are forced to use the name of their owner to place restraints on them and to show society how men are the ones who hold power. “All those women having jobs: hard to imagine, now, but thousands of them had jobs, millions. It was considered the normal thing. Now it’s like remembering the paper money when they still had that” (Pg 173). Women are no longer allowed to obtain jobs as it is now against the law but Offred reveals how before the creation of Gilead women were allowed to work. Offred realizes how women are treated much more strict than men because they are required to wear uniforms and are categorized into factions to divide the social classes. “There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they’re called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can” (pg 24). Atwood uses Narrators point of view so Offred can tell the story of how the Republic of Gilead operates, so readers can understand how woman are confined and forced to live under strict rules. The way that Gilead has divided women reveals how women are no longer respected since they are meant to follow strict rules and do what they are told order to keep them at a lower social standing compared to men.
In the Handmaid’s Tale Atwood created a dystopian society to show how women are confined and oppressed of their freedom in order to reveal how women are not equivalent to men. Women in the novel are stripped of their freedom, while men are entitled to take complete control of their freedom as they are believed to be the superior sex compared to the women of Gilead. In Gilead Men hold all the power while women are just objects waiting to be controlled are used so Gilead can function properly. The women are a source of recreation that is used for sex and a form of possession. Atwood focuses on those who made choices of taking control of the Gilead society in order result in an increase of the population. The preservation of mankind is the main goal instead of citizens having possession of any sort of freedom or happiness. Through the use of confinement and oppression, Gilead successfully succeeds to make sure that both men and women are divided so that women are seen as having less power than men.