The handmaid’s tale by Margret Atwood
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- Pages: 7
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** Power- Many people of Gilead manipulate power to get what they want. Many characters in the novel find a way to control others with what they have, Offred uses sexuality as her power, even though she has fear of controlling this tool, she try’s to imagine what men ( angels) think of her appearance when she sways her body, Offred uses her sexuality with the Commander to get out information. Offred has power but she is afraid of using it, she knows that her power is to an extend because if she gets caught, the commander will never protect her from the wrath of Serena Joy.
On the other hand the Commander uses his power to meet handmaids behind Serena Joy’s back; he also has power when he takes Offred to Jezebel. Offred learns that to maintain power over their bodies and decisions some handmaids commit suicide and Offred too has thoughts of killing herself.* Sexuality- Gilead’s society is revolved around controlling sex and human nature, Gilead has strict rules that enable everyone to be isolated and forced to follow Gilead’s regime. In Gilead males and females are executed if they are gay, pornography and sexual clothing are destroyed and they attempt to normalize weird sexual relations that they believe are in the bible.* Women rights/ Feminism- Gilead provide protection for women by isolating them from men; women are expected to unite during pregnancy (of other handmaids), death and sickness. Females teach other females about the regime of Gilead and how it’s beneficial for them.
Even though Gilead expects females to be loyal to one another, one of the flaws seen in Gilead is jealously and resentment between females. Gilead gives fewer rights to females versus the males who are allowed to have wives and handmaids, also they are suppose to have the “ability to feel”.* The consequences of disobeying- in the society of Gilead there are consequences for everything, if you have sexual relations with someone who you are not assigned to, or refuse to fulfill a duty than the government of Gilead will kill you. And if you try to play around with their laws they will hurt you. Moira was similarly hurt when she tried to escape the red center. And even though she was successful, she wasn’t able to escape Gilead and now she is trapped in Jezebel as a prostitute or time pass.
* Cruelty /Human misery- this is a important theme because this has happened to all of the characters in the novel, Offred feels misery and continuously flash’s back to her previous life with her family, cruelty is shown when the handmaids have to give away their newborn babies, or when infertile are send to the colonies and unbabies have no future in Gilead. Handmaids are under so much pressure that some times they think suicide is the way out of Gilead.* Violence- is seen throughout the novel, the handmaids legs and hands are broken if they attempt to read, execution is done as a punishment for rape.* Isolation- The only place that people are free is in their own heads, creating a significant amount of isolation between individuals.* Love / Hatred- love is forbidden in Gilead, every one is isolated from one another so love is not developed, and hatred is a result of no communication between people in this society.
Offred hates Serena and vice versa because they aren’t allowed to understand one another and make a relationship, instead they are used only to repopulate Gilead, Offred makes the bay, and Serena nurtures it.* “Today there are different flowers, drier, more defined, the flowers of high summer: daisies, black-eyed Susans, starting us on the long downward slope to fall” (Pg.337).Through the use of imagery, the reader understands the mood Offred portrays through flowers. This quote is when Offred talks about a garden walk that she takes with Ofglen after she has attend Jezebel and had a sexual encounter with Nick. “I hardly listen to her, I hardly credit her.
The things she whispers seem to me unreal. What use are they, for me, now?” (pg. 337). The fact that she indicates that to her things spoken of are ‘unreal’ it emphasizes the fact that over the period of time, her sense of hope and idea of freedom have changed and this is reflected in her description of the flowers.
It reveals a lot about Margaret Atwood’s views about social status, the role of women and her feminist perspectives. The quote sounds poetic as it uses alliteration (the words different, drier and defined) to emphasize the importance of the message being communicated to the readers.The reference to “different flowers” existing “today” is used to show the different social status that each group has and also the relative power and freedom each group has. Atwood also labels these new breed of flowers as “drier” which helps to emphasize the fact that the new generation of society no longer feel the need to rebel against society as they consider the situation as normal because they do not have an understanding of what life used to be like before. Atwood uses this to disapprove humans for not learning from past events. The flowers are also labeled as “more defined” which can be perceived as being the many different types of restrictions imposed on each social class and that even those limited freedoms that may enjoy are strictly controlled by those in power in this society.
* Offred learns that her mother who showed different sort of feminism throughout the novel is now in the colonies “I think of my mother, sweeping up deadly toxins; the way they used to use up old women, in Russia, sweeping up dirt. Only this dirt will kill her.” (pg. 319) through the use of visual imagery the reader sees the consequences of women who protested against an antifeminist society. The reader sees the cruelty that Gilead puts them through if they tried to ban pornography and marched for abortion rights. Gilead is very ungenerous and sends infertile and old aged humans to the colonies so they can do the dirty work.
This isn’t fair, that the powerful infertile females, the wives, stay in their homes and gardens while the females like Offred’s mother are sent to the colonies as their punishment for being protesters.* The night club, Jezebel, shows the advantage of being a ruler in Gilead. Through the use of perspective the reader understand the commander’s approach to Gilead and how the commander abuses power to bring Offred to Jezebel so he can show her off to his “colleagues” and have sex with her with no restrictions (Serena Joy) to stop him from touching her. “It’s only for the officers,” he says..
. A man will sometimes tell woman things that he won’t tell other men.” (pg. 298) The Commander tells Offred that its human nature for men to desire sex, but he also tells her only the privileged ones or the commanders (the upper class with the power) can attend Jezebel.This shows that power is a tool that controls the society of Gilead and differentiates between people like Nick versus the Commander.
The Commander and Gilead think of themselves as humans but what about men like Nick or the guardians who too desire sex and want human contact. Also Atwood has decided to divide females into two categories the virgin who are the wives or the daughters and the prostitutes who work in Jezebel and the handmaids. Once again this brings up the theme of feminism and female rights where the men control what the females can do in the society of Gilead.And this society is customized only for the men, as the Commander’s hold the power to make theses rules to benefit their lives rather than everyone. The Commanders fantasies come true when they attend this underground club, Jezebel, the women are just objects that they use. The value of women in this society is just for the purpose of sex and repopulations.
“That one there, she’s a sociologist… that one was a lawyer.
” (pg. 299) The Commander tells Offred the range of women that Jezebel carries. This shows that the value of women only exists because of their bodies other wise their education has no purpose in Gilead’s society. And this is also degrading to females, because females who were lawyers in pre-Gilead are now considered whores.
* Through the uses of Imagery, the reader learns about the consequences of disobeying with the law of Gilead. In this section, Moira is seen as failed hero, her heroism was not powerful as Gilead’s laws and punishments. Moira who was an inspiration to Offred and other handmaids has now given up and accepted her fate in Gilead. “I want gallantry from her, swashbuckling, heroism, single-hander combat. Something I lack.” (pg.
314) Moira who has given up on herself has now made Offred give up on hope. Offred knows that if someone rebellious like Moira couldn’t escape from Gilead then there is no way she can. This is sad and the reader learns that no one can escape from the wrath of Gilead.* Atwood contrast’s Offred’s sexual encounter with the Commander at Jezebel versus the encounter with Nick.
This passage showed the difference between forced sex and desired sex or love. Offred knows that the commander is somewhat responsible for separating her from her family because the commander is powerful and part of the government of Gilead. The commander wants sex from Offred but Offred can’t give him passion and desire that she feels towards Nick. The two themes that contrast one another are, power and love.
The commander has power and he gets sex from Offred and Offred has love for Nick and therefore they have sex.In the society of Gilead where love isn’t suppose to exists, does, when Offred feels that she has fallen in love with Nick. Through Offred’s perspective we see that nothing can govern love and sex can’t be regulated by law. “Neither of us says the word love, not once.
It would be tempting fate; it would be romance, bad luck.” (pg. 337) this shows that even if they wanted to love each other their relationship is inevitable and Gilead is more powerful then their one night stands.