A Dystopian Society in Margaret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s Tale

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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 Dystopia is a bleak way of writing about our possible future. Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a cultural forewarning of our actions. Gilead, being a religious-based government, controls its followers with fear which makes the government even more powerful. When someone believes that they are being watched by their God, they are on their best behavior by the all-seeing. This is how religion is for everyone in our society. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s bleak presentation of religion, politics, and history make the novel a perfect example of a dystopia.

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Christianity is all about expanding their religion and letting others know that Christianity is a one-way trip to Heaven after death as long as you do not sin, and spread Christianity. Gilead is a branch of Christianity and, obviously, is about spreading the word of Jacob to keep the population thriving. “…Give me children or else I die…” Jacob holds the power in this quote and questions Rachel and he says no it is not me it is you who is not fertile, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” Jacob gets genuinely mad at his wife Rachel and she is scared because she can’t bear Jacob as a son. This is a huge power trip for the man and Gilead thinks this is okay. This form of Christianity was literally pushed onto people and controlled by the government. The Bible is miss-quoted during the ceremony as this shows how the scripture can easily be perverted. Atwood is showing us to be careful with some religions, they can be so powerful, the negative parts may fade away from time to time but history repeats itself and religion will be misused again and again.

Gilead was able to suspend the Constitution to persuade the people of America with anxiety. “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere as long as it stays inside the maze.” What Offred meant by this, and what Atwood was getting across, was to make the reader think about freedom. Rats are not aware that they are free and the handmaids are supposedly free. Free enough to roam around within the walls just like a rat. Offred was letting us know what it is like to have freedom from men’s oppression, she felt like a rat in a maze. Aunt Lydia compared the past and the present at the red center and told the women “Consider the alternatives… You see what things used to be like that was what they thought of women, then.” Aunt Lydia is convincing these girls that it is okay to have freedom from tyranny, it frees you from violence and men. Attwood wants the world to ask themselves, is high security the best way to solve our problems? Is this really freedom? This is a huge dilemma for the freedom of the people and soon it will become anarchy. Her story tells us that security from yourself is not more important than freedom from tyranny.

Finally, Atwood uses the idea of history repeating itself to show the bleak reality that

“Everything that has happened in this book has already happened.” Atwood is telling us that history has, is, and will repeat itself. Even if it isn’t in a cattle – prod- severed – tongue – sucking – guns – torture – porn kind of way. The Sons of Jacob took the idea of polygamy from the Bible, by using religion to manipulate people and follow the word of Jacob, for the government to control their followers in Gilead. In current times, some people have extreme religious views that are used to control people. Many cults such as Jonestown, Waco, and Heaven’s Gate are examples of history repeating itself. Furthermore, in the history notes, Professor Pieixoto jokes about the “Underground Railroad,” continuing to marginalize women as they have been throughout history. He also suggests that we can not judge the Sons of Jacob as they were in a different time and situation, he is saying he would have done it in that time period cause it was pushed onto him. This is the kind of thinking that leads to history repeating itself, the excuse of I had to.

Margret Atwood shows her readers that history does in fact repeat itself religiously, politically, and culturally and is perfectly told through a very bleak way of writing, The Handmaid’s Tale. Throughout history, religion and corrupt politicians have been running countless tyrannical actions in history, and Gilead fits right into this example. This book is all about dystopia but is a realistic possibility of what is, has, and will happen in history.  

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A Dystopian Society in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. (2021, May 31). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-dystopian-society-in-margaret-atwoods-the-handmaids-tale/