The handmaid's tale Essays

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The Handmaid’s Tale Literary Analysis

In the story The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood the city of Gilead demoralizes women in many ways. Forcing sex upon them, expecting them to take care of their spouse and family, and giving them little or no political power. Throughout the novel she specifically shows examples of the poor treatment of women. “Can I […]

Pages: 4 Words: 1193 Topics: The Handmaid's Tale

The Gilead Women Oppression in “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopic and totalitarian society called Gilead, formed in response to the crisis caused by decreasing birthrates and, consequently, with one main goal: total control of reproduction. Therefore, the state intercepts the problem head-on by assuming complete control of women’s bodies through their politics supported […]

Pages: 3 Words: 949 Topics: Feminism, Human Nature, Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale
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Feminism in the Handmaid’s Tale

According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes (Oxford Dictionary). Despite many gender equality laws being passed and feminist movements being initiated in the late twentieth century, women were still struggling to achieve their rights. In the 1980s, a “third wave” of […]

Pages: 3 Words: 898 Topics: Feminism, The Handmaid's Tale

Theme of Misogyny in the Handmaid’s Tale

Our society presents an extreme example of misogyny and sexism by featuring the complete objectification of women in the society in which we live. Our society highlighting the inequality of women in our society now and the era that follows it. Our society demonstrates that misogyny and sexism are deeply embedded in our society and […]

Pages: 7 Words: 2152 Topics: Feminism, Human Nature, Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale and the Silencing of a Woman’s Voice

The person who once tweeted, “I have no limits”, was limited by a maximum of 140 characters. Language is helpful and restraining at the same time, for instance, when defining words. It is widely known that several aspects of life are too complex to express in words, especially when regarding social constructs, such as femininity […]

Pages: 9 Words: 2832 Topics: Feminism, Human Nature, Narrative, Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale Key Questions

The Handmaid’s Tale happens in Cambridge, MA, explicitly the Harvard territory, outside Boston, a city in what used to be in the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead. In this tragic future, where we, as a rule, discover a general public that has a wide range of wrong, the fair government has been […]

Pages: 4 Words: 1324 Topics: Human Nature, Innovation, Narrative, The Handmaid's Tale

In the Age of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ it’s Time to Revisit ‘Children of Men’

Both, Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Alfonso Cuaron’s film, Children of Men, are examples of dystopian fiction and are products of their author’s response to history that they have experienced from a remove. The presented imaginary universes in these two stories are meant to embody a perfect society. However, such societies often result […]

Pages: 8 Words: 2396 Topics: American literature, Human Nature, Identity Politics, Salvation, The Handmaid's Tale

What Christians Can Learn from ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood published in 1985 is categorized as a dystopian novel focusing on a totalitarian and theocratic Republic of Gilead. This is a society based on biblical beliefs that helps authorize inhumane state practices. This regime took the right of appealing and legally protecting the females from the government. The decrease […]

Pages: 5 Words: 1586 Topics: The Handmaid's Tale

Major Themes of the Handmaid’s Tale

How would you feel if you lost all your basic human rights and were forced to use your body for something you didn’t want to do? That’s how the Handmaids in the book and TV show, The Handmaid’s Tale, have to live their life. “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere as […]

Pages: 9 Words: 2611 Topics: The Handmaid's Tale

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

 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 […]

Pages: 3 Words: 785 Topics: Feminism, Human Nature, Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale

Yes, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is Feminist

In this dystopian book “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the writer, Margaret Atwood looks for the outcome of the situation in which females have no absolute rights whatsoever All women’s rights in this book are taken away from the women. The ladies in The book “Handmaid’s Tale” are abused in every manageable form, most particularly through getting […]

Pages: 3 Words: 1020 Topics: Feminism, Human Nature, Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale

Handmaids Tale Vs Persepolis 

The whole society today depends upon religion. Both scholarly works The Handmaid’s Story, shaped by Margaret Atwood, and Persepolis, made by Marjane Satrapi, present the peruser with a general populace subject to religious fundamentalism. The two works picture outrageous timetables. They challenge the peruser to consider what could occur and the final product for the […]

Pages: 4 Words: 1262 Topics: Ethics, Freedom of Religion, Human Nature, Narration, The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”: Echoes of Orwell

 Introduction and Thesis Dystopian novels emphasize a sense of the powerlessness of the individual in the face of the oppressive and brutal government. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and George Orwell’s 1984 intensely dramatic scenes heighten the idea of the powerlessness of the individual. George Orwell’s in his novel 1984 presents a totalitarian regime […]

Pages: 2 Words: 678 Topics: Ethics, Human Nature, Novel, The Handmaid's Tale

Feminist-Focused Literature: Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood evolves feminist-focused literature with her novel Handmaid’s Tale, empowering an unconventional development of a dynamic female character, Offred. Instead of portraying the oppression of women in a static manner, she parallels the unequal distribution of power between men and women of modern society through the representation of the extreme totalitarian government, Gilead. The […]

Pages: 3 Words: 769 Topics: Feminism, Gender Equality, Human Nature, Novel, The Handmaid's Tale

Religion in “Handmaids Tale” and Persepolis”

In the present society, everything is dependent on religion. Both The Handmaid’s Story, which was composed somewhere in the range of 1980 and 1986, and Persepolis, which was additionally composed somewhere in the range of 2000 and 2002, enables the peruser to find out about a general public dependent on religion. The two written works […]

Pages: 2 Words: 687 Topics: Ethics, Human Nature, Novel, Popular culture, The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: the Women in Subjugation to Misogyny

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopic and totalitarian society called Gilead, formed in response to the crisis caused by decreasing birthrates and, consequently, with one main goal: total control of reproduction. Therefore, the state intercepts the problem head-on by assuming complete control of women’s bodies through their politics supported by religious […]

Pages: 3 Words: 939 Topics: Social Issues, The Handmaid's Tale

An Analysis of the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood depicts the Commander as a human character despite his title and stoic exterior; despite the system he stands for, he longs for genuine human connection in a very innocent way. Prior to her acquaintance with him, Offred views the commander as merely a part of the system. He […]

Pages: 2 Words: 739 Topics: The Handmaid's Tale

Essay About The Handmaid’s Tale

In A Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood creates a ‘Ustopia’, otherwise known as the Republic of Gilead. In Gilead, the citizens are ruled over by a totalitarian government that subjects its women to oppression as it enforces laws that limit their freedom and prohibit any form of pleasure; all of which is justified by the ‘word’. Atwood coined the term in order to define the phenomenon that occurs as she creates a utopian and dystopian society interwoven with attributes of both genres. Both versions of the society serve as fundamental attributes which demonstrate the oppressive nature of a society led by a totalitarian government. Each contrasting piece serves as a juxtaposition of the Puritan lifestyle led by Gilead’s civilians and the oppression that women are subjected to. Ultimately, Atwood creates this Utopia, by including oppression and the resistance that is a direct response by the narrator, Offred. By doing so, she gains autonomy but inevitably causing the reader to question the reliability of her narration.

Utopia in Atwood’s novel serves as a lens to see the liberating and ‘simpler’ nature of the past. However, there are also pieces of utopia in the dystopian future. The fundamental Puritan lifestyle ingrained in The Republic of Gilead is a representation of the ‘perfect society, which is also a part of the utopian world present in the novel. In the novel, Puritanism is synonymous to self-discipline and fundamentalism. The daily lives of Gilead’s citizens are somewhat determined and frequently interfered by authoritative figures. For example, the bible is regularly enforced in day-to-day lives, the environment is safer for women, and the simple yet daunting fact that reproduction occurs more frequently due to the changes made. This change in reproduction is an “improvement” from the previous world’s, now women are “protected, they can fulfill their biological destinies in peace. With full support and encouragement,”(Atwood 219). The dystopian attributes of Atwood’s novel are more explicit and easily identifiable. Dystopia is typically a consequence of the utopian ideas enforced by authority, as evident in A Handmaid’s Tale. Gilead’s desire to emulate that of a perfect society is the reason for the government’s decision to implement unrealistic and restricting laws. The citizens of Gilead, mostly the handmaid’s suffer the backlash. When identifying the dystopian elements, it is important to note that the protagonist of the novel typically observes and critiques their society. which is exactly Offred’s response to Gilead. It is important to note the ways in which the reader gains insight on the fundamental aspects of Gilead, this is mostly, if not all, through Offred’s account.
In the novel, the government’s attempt to make Gilead a utopia, inevitably makes it a dystopia. The utopian attributes are the ideals and standards of men, but the reader is exposed to the consequences of such ideals when they are enforced in a society. These consequences serve as the backbone of the dystopian world in Atwood’s novel. In Gilead, Puritanism serves as the foundation of its laws and enforced patriarchal lifestyle. However, the effects ensued by this ‘perfect society’ to fulfill its Puritan values is easily recognizable. In her critical essay titled The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: examining its dystopian, utopian, feminist, and postmodernist traditions, Iowa State University’s professor Michelle Gulick makes note of this as she states, “any society that strives for perfection is doomed to fail” (Gulick 14). The author of this source argues that while utopia is intended to be a perfect society it ceases to evolve as this fundamental characteristic of perfection as it is riddled with unrealistic expectations making it inevitable for it to fail. In Atwood’s novel, Puritanism is not taken seriously or practiced to a serious extent. The bible is used to construct Gilead’s laws, but the interpretation of it is rigid. Gilead is regitifying and misappropriating the language of the bible. Religion is used as a vehicle for the men in this patriarchy to justify and commit their irrational acts. For example, the bible is used to glorify marriage, absolve men of adultery for the purposes of child-bearing, and for the justification of executing civilians based on their sinful actions/disobeying of Gilead’s laws. They are simply hungry for power and thus appropriate religion and its utopic value in order to manipulate others into believing and ultimately behaving in ways that grant them that power. Atwood’s point seems to be that the elite of Gilead are not truly motivated by the scripture, they just use it to secure power. This is evident when The Commander claims to live by the laws of Gilead and by the bible, but really just utilizes the bible in order to justify his promiscuous/polygamous acts with his handmaid. While Offred is still objectified and ridiculed.

Due to her flawed interpretation/account of Gilead, the reader is unsure if Offred is a reliable narrator. Essentially, Offred uses her narration and memory as a form of liberation. Offred states “I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather no shadow unless there is also light”(Atwood 105). Offred’s resistance to Gilead’s perfection, “the light”, includes her reconstructions and elimination of certain information, all of which cause a flawed narration. Both are the ways in which Offred can be her own individual, and both are exclusively under her jurisdiction, as opposed to any of the other aspects in her life that are controlled by her government. And thus, by having this choice, Offred is able to withhold certain information when telling her account of Gilead. By doing so, Offred gains autonomy.

However, the reader can be skeptical of her account, or at least question if she is telling the entire truth. Offred explicitly states, “If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off” (Atwood 39). Offred frequently thinks of what could have happened, (the possibility of a better outcome), in the hope of constructing a better past. This provides her with the hope that things were and will get better, but she realizes that that is far from the truth and corrects herself, as shown when she states,“I made that up. It didn’t happen that way. Here is what happened” (Atwood 261). The reader sees Offred’s personal development through her narration. Offred’s narrating skills develop as the plot develops. As Offred’s character endures more pain and attempts to tolerate the challenges inflicted by this oppressive society, she seeks inner-council and sanity. She finds console through the liberating act of “storytelling”.
In his academic essay titled The Necessity of Telling Her Story, Donal Hu Gaynor discusses the unreliability of Offred’s narration and her flaws as an overall character. He discusses how the fallibility of Offred mostly derives from her ability to be incorrect. Gaynor states that, “The question of Offred’s veracity in telling her tale comes into focus when she starts presenting alternative versions… By making it clear that she is telling the reader about her hopes and fears she is not trying to deceive us, but she is making it clear that the events she is describing are not necessarily true. Offred’s account of these events is inherently unreliable,”(Gaynor 11). As I stated previously, Offred’s choice in narration and what she narration is inherently the reason why her account is unreliable. The emotional veracity of what she is saying is however increased. She is allowing the reader access to her hopes and fears. As Offred is a first-person narrator understanding her motivations and feelings is essential to understanding her telling of the story. Gaining access to her innermost feelings makes her version of events more emotionally honest giving veracity to her account.

In her dissertation, Gulick states that “In The Handmaid’s Tale, mirrors are used into two main ways, these also demonstrating the stages of the protagonist’s psychological development. The first way, found primarily in the first half of the novel, is to distort or prohibit Offred’ s discovery of herself. The second way mirrors are used, primarily in the second half of the novel, is to illuminate, reflect, and enlighten Offred, and thus, aid her in her journey toward self discovery,” (Gulick 75). Contrastingly, author Mary McCarthy argues that Atwood’s novel is “a serious defect, unpardonable maybe for the genre: a future that has no language invented for it lacks a personality.” She also believes that the narrator lacks a personality which is essential in dystopian novels. This secondary source is a book review that assesses the content of Atwood’s novel and its significance. Overall the author of this article was pleased with Atwood’s work but questioned her contrasting take on the genre of speculative fiction. However, I believe that McCarthy fails to establish Atwood’s “Ustopian” ideas present in her novel and how that makes her novel unique to others that are published in the genre of speculative science fiction. I believe that Atwood’s dystopia does not lack a personality, and although it is not similar to those published in novels of a similar genre, she does this for quite a few reasons. One reason is to emulate a society similar to reality and to demonstrate the closeness in proximity. Margaret Atwood attempts to reveal how closely related are two worlds are, our reality and the world present in her novel. She writes a timely novel that showcases the possibility of a oppressive and dangerous inevitable future that awaits our society. She does this by incorporating familiar aspects of our society, like the game Scrabble, football stadiums, fake news, etc. Another reason Atwood chose to write a dystopia that may not be depicted as very futuristic or fictional was that, as she states in her interview with The Guardian titled, The Road to Ustopia, “There is nothing in The Handmaid’s Tale that didn’t happen somewhere,”(The Guardian Atwood). McCarthy fails to understand that Atwood’s novel is not completely a dystopia and that also Offred is not solely a pawn to highlight the dystopian feature of Gilead. As stated previously in Gulick’s dissertation, I believe that Offred does not lack character, and in fact her personality develops over the course of the novel.

Offred’s self-discovery is a rediscovery of the person that she previously was before the creation of Gilead. She reminds herself to remain sane and “to not forget”, for her knowledge and memory of the past are the only individualistic aspects that she can hold onto. Offred’s faulty or inaccurate account is also a response to the Utopia that Gilead attempts to build. She uses her own inadequate language when telling her account and she is critical of the fundamentalism in place. Her own language, including the “blank spaces,” which is symbolic of the language left for and used by the handmaids because although they have another language to interpret for themselves, such as the Latin phrase “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum,” it is still not theirs even if they build off of it. Thus, nothing is truly theirs therefore Offred relies solely on her ability to construct a story, her story.  

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