Commentry On The Handsmaid Tale Essay

1150 words - 5 pages

This novel is an account of the near future, a dystopia, wherepollution and radiation has rendered countless women sterile, and the birthrates of North America are dangerously declining. A puritan theocracy nowcontrols the former United States called the Republic of Gilead andHandmaids are recruited to repopulate the state. This novel containsAtwood's strong sense of social awareness, as seen in the use of satire tocomment on different social conditions in the novel. The Handmaid'sTale is a warning to young women of the 'post-feminist' 1980s and after,who began taking for granted the rights that had been secured for womenby the women before them.
The environmental danger of pollution and radiation run off from powerplants is commented on in the novel. Atwood is voicing her concernsabout the destruction of the environment here, and warns us of thepossibilities if the destruction continues in our world. Her view is extremeof course, made to shock people into thinking about the potentialdanger. In the novel, pollution and radiation had overwhelmed thepopulation causing sterility in both men and women. Babies were often borndeformed, (these were called 'Unbabies') or died during pregnancy orshortly after birth. At one point in the novel, a funeral is described bythe main character Offred, she said "the first one is bereaved, themother; she carries a small black jar. From the size of the jar you cantell how old it was when it foundered, inside her, flowed to its death.Two or three months, too early to tell whether or not it was an Unbaby"(Atwood, 55). The infertile women, rebels and feminists were sent tothe 'colonies' to clean toxic waste, where of course they die of eitherdisease or radiation. Atwood incorporated the environmental disasterinto her novel as a warning, her point being that it could happen, andif it did, here is what might happen; mankind could go to an extreme,religious, totalitarian state: the Republic of Gilead.
Gilead, the ultra religious military regime is a reaction to thedramatic drop in birth rate. In the novel, Aunt Lydia, one of the women incharge of the Red Centre where handmaids are trained described Gilead;she said "the republic of Gilead knows no bounds. Gilead is withinyou." (Atwood, 29). Offred, replied inwardly "doctors lived here once,lawyers, university professors. There are no lawyers anymore, and theuniversity is closed" (Atwood, 29). Here, Offred's comment says muchabout the social conditions in Gilead. Since the university is closed,secular learning is no longer allowed, the only studying is done on theBible, and not by women because they are forbidden to read and write. TheBible had a huge impact on Gilead's policies. The idea of handmaidscame from the story of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob's wife could notconceive, so Jacob and the servant had a child, which became Jacob andRachel's. It is obvious that Gilead is a very repressive place. Later, inOffred's taped recordings about Gilead...

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