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A Tale Of Oppression And Reaction

1493 words - 6 pages

In Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the character of Offred is restricted by the severe regulations of her society. The once democratic United States of America with equality for all has been turned into the theocratic and totalitarian Republic of Gilead. When Offred is affected by the strict standards of this society, she responds in audacious, yet furtive ways in order to not attract the attention of the omniscient Eyes who control the society and punish offenders
After the United States becomes Gilead, many aspects of society change. In a sense the society travels back in time, erasing the strides feminists had fought to obtain. Offred arrives to work as usual and is told that it is against the law for women to work. They now have to be dependent on their husbands to provide for them. Even her credit card does not work because the money she had earned is no longer useable; instead her husband, Luke, must transfer some of his money to her account. The government is sending the message that women are not able to provide for themselves; their husbands are superior to them, and their guidance is necessary. Women are forbidden to read. Instead, they must rely on pictorial signs for information. This decree further dehumanizes the women as it stunts their intelligence and self-esteem by preventing them from expanding their scholarly progress. In addition, no longer are citizens allowed to practice a religion of their choice. Baptist rebels are driven away, Catholic priests are hung on the Wall, and Jewish people are given the choice between converting and immigrating to Israel. The Wall is a public place for the bodies of convicted criminals. It serves as a blatant warning to anyone who dares to consider transgressing. Its sinister reminder looms over Offred every day, forcing her to be submissive. Eliminating religious freedom allows the government to control the lives of people and prevent conflicting ideologies to arise. Aunt Lydia tries to justify these restrictions, explaining, “There is more than one kind of freedom…Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it” (Atwood 24). Although the women are no longer subjected to lewd remarks and catcalls from men on the streets, they are forbidden from many previous freedoms. Aunt Lydia is arguing that the women should be grateful for these “freedom froms” and not lament the “freedom tos” they have lost.
As a rare and coveted fertile woman, Offred is forced to become a Handmaid and be passed from Commander to Commander. Each handmaid is renamed “Of,” signifying ownership, followed by the name of her commander, rebranding her as property. Renaming handmaids takes away their individuality and erases their former life, reinventing them as new people with a refocused purpose. It likewise makes her dispensable because a new handmaid can easily replace her and adopt the name Offred. She is obligated to partake in the...

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