The Handmaids Tale Analysis

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“The story is told by Offred a Handmaid; she lives in Gilead which was once Boston. Handmaids are fertile women who are forced to carry children for the rich Elites in charge. All gender roles are reassigned by a new government, one that leads by Theocracy. The citizens are forced to follow the book of Christ or punished depending on the crime committed. The plot mentions “Eyes” who are soldiers that spy and arrest those who plot against Gilead Regime. Which leads to a low state autonomy, individuals are not allowed to make their own decisions. The citizens of Gilead face devastating forms of inequality, especially women being forced to carry children for the wives of powerful Elite. Before the development of the new Regime there was full democracy among the citizens of United States, where equality and self-governance was a right. However, there was a low state capacity to the ability of a government to manage its territory effectively and ability to maximize prosperity and stability.

The show goes into details of a new Republic, one that overthrown the Democratic one where the constitution was destroyed, the members of congress and supreme court were killed. After the new government created this Hierarchy ranked people according to their level of importance. In Gilead every citizen is forced in this Hierarchy where their civil rights and personal identity have been erased. Men are defined by their military rank and profession and women are grouped into classes. Looking at the scope we can study the state and Government, which provides administration to the people. The study of associations and institutions are the core of understanding the state and its governance. According to Fukuyama, the reading states “we can array the scope of the state activities along a continuum that stretches from necessary and important to merely destructive”. The scope of national and international issues, some basic issues to any state is providing necessities to its population. Milliken and Krause states, the normalization of the nation-state as an institutional and political ideal was complete, as was the idea that nationalism could be mastered and channeled by state elites in an instrumental top down process to meet the needs of the modern state”. Creating job opportunities, employment, education, and health care is the duty and important functions of any welfare state. Since the women are forced to be reposition based on their fertile state, their rights such as education and employment are stripped away. Young women (teenagers) are order to carry their duty as wives and mothers to arranged soldiers. They are placed into Elite families as maids (Marathas) and handmaids without a choice to stay or leave.

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Legitimacy of a rule or decision implies that the member of society treat that rule or decision as beneficial to society as well as to themselves. It is an important ingredient of authority along with power. The use of force of coercion or sanctions may be restored only when legitimacy fails to work. There are three basis of Legitimacy, Rational, Traditional, and Charismatic. In Comparative Politics O’Neil discuss, “Traditional legitimacy stresses ritual and continuity, it allows the state to carry out basic functions. States that use the most coercion against their citizens are often the most weakly institutionalized, for without violence they cannot get the public to willingly comply”.

Gilead follows a traditional legitimacy because it resets on an establishment belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them. Following the words of the Bible have become societal rules, if these rules are fragmented the citizen face horrific consequences. The men in charge Angels (soldiers, or Guardians unmarried servants) are forced to kill or capture citizens who disobey laws. Angels have killed innocent Martha’s in the street because she was looking through her pocket, mistaking her actions as a suicide bomber.

There is a national division in the political system along with socio-economic class and gender division. The Elites have taken over the Regime therefore they have a high economic class while the rest of society suffers through their conducts. The state created inequality to divide the nation, first by gender. Women have been repositioned to serve men without choice, Gilead institutionalizes sexual violence towards men. The ceremony for impregnating a handmaid is institutionalized adultery and rape. Gender inequality allows for the Male in the Hierarchy to control the financial status of all individuals. The new regime forced women to turn of their bank accounts. This division allows the males to have complete order over society, the political system was build in their favor.

The ideology in this political system is a vital apparatus for the new government to keep their superior position and that their inferior citizens could remain obedient and operate accordingly. There is an atmosphere of fear and oppression where women are confused about the definition of their own identity. As stated, “ideologies are concerned with the ideal relation between freedom and equality for all individuals and the proper role of political institution on achieving or maintaining this relation” (O’Neil 84). The government using a Repressive State Apparatus the people are aware if they break certain rules they will be punished severely.

The Regime of Gilead follows a nondemocratic regime, it is a Theocratic state. There is a religious leadership and political leadership fused into single sovereign authority. In Gilead there are biblical references mostly from the book Genesis run through all aspects of everyday life. The police are called the Eye to put fear into the people give the impression God is always watching them. Every month Offred is forced to have impersonal sex with the commander while Serena holds her hands down. The commander recites a scripture from the Bible before committing to this horrific process. Women are frequently abused emotionally and physically for the slightest mistakes. Sometimes their punishment can be disfigurement, with female genital mutilation which is viewed as a scared religious act.

The main issue is the enforcement of moral and religious rules backed by government and by pain of death. The irony of reverting to a puritanical theocracy is exemplified by Serena Joy, who before the political switch advocated for the “Sons of Jacob” which was the movement that was behind this. After the rise of power, even if she wanted to she could no longer advocate for them, so she used the power to advocate for her own loss of it. Her own religious fight has led her to be the second lead in her own marriage and unable to fulfill her own ideas. The State thinks if the Handmaids are constantly surrounded by scripture, the message they convey will sink in. The Theocratic government does not believe in other religions. If you disobeyed the rules of God , you were sent to “The wall” to be executed and displayed, so the rest of Gilead would fear the regimes authority.

There is also a fuse of Totalitarian because, “they shatter human will, eliminating individuals ability to aspire to create, freedom. They achieve effects, terror and violence are commonly used to break down existing institutions and remake them in the leaderships own image” (O’Neil 180). With the use of coercion and surveillance the citizens lives are always a threat. Soldiers (Angels) are placed to make sure the rule of God being followed and to implement fear among society. Arrest and torture had become a norm for the regime, “Surveillance is conducted through the use of an internal security force and charged with monitoring public activity, spying on individuals and interrogating members of the public suspected of political activity hostile to the regime” (O’Neil 188). Handmaids are only allowed to go shopping with supervision from soldiers and another handmaid with limited time. Offred quotes, “I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely”. June’s lively hood is based on her fertility status, she views her body as property to a family and not to herself. The leaders of Gilead found most of their wives are not able to reproduce so they enslave the rest of women who had viable uteruses to give birth for the Elites.

The regime of Gilead is a society facing environmental disaster and mass infertility under a Theocratic regime. The handmaids are forced to reproduce children for the powerful Elites who are the extremist in charge. As a non democratic state the citizens are enforced to live by threatening conditions, their basic rights have been turned over to a new government. Those in charger spread inequality among genders which allows the Elites to conduct power and keep order.”

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The Handmaids Tale Analysis. (2021, Apr 15). Retrieved from