This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale Essay

1701 words - 7 pages

Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale

 
    Feminism as we know it began in the mid 1960's as the Women's Liberation Movement. Among its chief tenants is the idea of women's empowerment, the idea that women are capable of doing and should be allowed to do anything men can do. Feminists believe that neither sex is naturally superior. They stand behind the idea that women are inherently just as strong and intelligent as the so-called stronger sex. Many writers have taken up the cause of feminism in their work. One of the most well known writers to deal with feminist themes is Margaret Atwood. Her work is clearly influenced by the movement and many literary critics, as well as Atwood herself, have identified her as a feminist writer. However, one of Atwood's most successful books, The Handmaid's Tale, stands in stark contrast to the ideas of feminism. In fact, the female characters in the novel are portrayed in such a way that they directly conflict with the idea of women's empowerment.

 

On the surface, The Handmaid's Tale appears to be feminist in nature. The point-of-view character and narrator is a woman and thus we see the world through a woman's eyes. There's much more to the story than that, though. Atwood doesn't show us our world. She shows us a newly created world in which women lack the freedoms that they currently take for granted. This dystopian society is completely controlled by men. Of course, the men have help from the Aunts, a crack team of brainwashers that run the reeducation centers and teach the handmaids how to be slaves. These characters really don't speak well for womankind for two reasons. First of all, it's difficult to tell who their real life counterpart is, assuming that this novel is supposed to be a satire. They clearly bear some resemblance to the conservative, Bible-thumping, old maids that love the old way of doing things and constantly rally for a return to family values. The aunts constantly quote the Bible and encourage to women to be genteel and unmasculine. These women are in many ways the antithesis of the feminist. In other ways though, they fall right in line with feminist dogma. Their constant derailment of men and their bitter, hate-filled demeanors make them almost caricatures of hard-line feminists. In fact, they fit quite nicely into the stereotypical way that that anti-feminist men often portray feminists, as bitchy, man-hating lesbians.

 

Another function of the aunts in the book is to undermine the sense of female camaraderie shown other places in the book. While claiming to hate men, the aunts side with the men, pushing their agenda on the handmaids and treating them as much like objects as the men in the story do. Another group who seems to do this is the wives, most notably, Serena Joy. Instead of siding with the handmaids in their battle against a male-dominated society, the wives treat them with little to no respect and continuously show...

Find Another Essay On Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale

Power in The Handmaid's Tale Essay

1712 words - 7 pages Power in The Handmaid's Tale As you read through the handmaid’s tale you see the relationships of the characters develop and the fight for power, however small that glimpse of power may be. The images of power can be seen through out the novel, but there are major parts that stand out to the reader from the aunt’s in the training centre to the secret meetings between the Commander and Offred. The first we see of the struggles of power

The Red Symbol in The Handmaid's Tale

1180 words - 5 pages In the dystopian novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" written by Margaret Atwood, the color red is a reoccurring, significant symbol throughout the book. The dominant color of the novel, the color red is paired with the Handmaids. The Handmaids are always seen in their red uniform, even down to their red shoes and red gloves. From the opening pages of the novel we are informed that they are trained at the “Red Centre,” and we are introduced to the

Interpreting The Handmaid's Tale

625 words - 3 pages Interpreting The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid's Tale is distinguished by its various narrative and structural divisions. It contains four different levels of narrative time: the pre-Revolution past, the time of the Revolution itself, the Gileadean period, and the post-Gileadean period (LeBihan 100). In addition, the novel is divided into two frames, both with a first person narrative. Offred's narrative makes up the first frame, while the

The Handmaid's Tale

940 words - 4 pages The Handmaid's Tale Serena Joy is the most powerful female presence in the hierarchy of Gileadean women; she is the central character in the dystopian novel, signifying the foundation for the Gileadean regime. Atwood uses Serena Joy as a symbol for the present dystopian society, justifying why the society of Gilead arose and how its oppression had infiltrated the lives of unsuspecting people. Atwood individualises the character of Serena

Portents of the Monotheocracy in The Handmaid's Tale

2507 words - 10 pages Portents of the Monotheocracy in The Handmaid's Tale        American society has had certain cultural and political forces which have proliferated over the past few decades-described as the return to traditional Christian values. Television commercials promoting family values followed by endorsements from specific denominations are on the rise. As the public has become more aware of a shift in the cultural and political climate through

The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

1079 words - 4 pages The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Offred is a Handmaid in what used to be the United States, now the theocratic Republic of Gilead. In order to create Gilead's idea of a more perfect society, they have reverted to taking the Book of Genesis at its word. Women no longer have any privileges; they cannot work, have their own bank accounts, or own anything. The also are not allowed to read or even chose who they want to

Societal Resistance and Control in "The Handmaid's Tale"

1875 words - 8 pages The words control and Gilead, the setting for the novel "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, are interchangeable. Not only is control a pivotal feature of the novel and its plot, it consequently creates the subplots, the characters and the whole world because of its enormity in the Republic of Gilead. Resistance also features heavily, as does its results, mainly represented in the salvagings, particicution and the threat of the

Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

1784 words - 7 pages Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Imagine if you can, living in a world that tells you what you are to wear, where to live, as well as your position and value to society. In Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, she shows us the Republic of Gilead does just that. Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid, whose usefulness is her ovaries. Handmaids are ordered to live in a house with a Commander, his

Romantic Love in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

1406 words - 6 pages Romantic Love in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale In her novel The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood addresses the concept of different expression of romantic love through the eyes of Offred, a woman who has lost almost all her freedom to a repressive, dystopic society. Throughout her struggle against oppression and guilt, Offred's view evolves, and it is through this process that Atwood demonstrates the nature of love as it develops

Gilead's Language System in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"

1057 words - 4 pages The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian futuristic novel by Margaret Atwood recounts the story of a totalitarian state, Gilead, which endorses the dehumanization of women with the excuse of effacing all scurrilous events and resolving a catastrophic problem of waning population rates. Gilead's tyrannical power lies in its ability to reduce multiplicity of thought in its subjects by banning all types of reading and writing, and reducing the daily

Atwood's Attention to Words in The Handmaid's Tale

1061 words - 4 pages Atwood's Attention to Words in The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaids Tale illustrates that dictatorship can be established by creating a state of fear once language controls are instituted. As a tradition to dystopian novels, Atwood has drawn much attention to the meaning of words and the significance of names, as well as the prohibition for women to read or write, in order to portray Gilead as a successful totalitarian state. Atwood is

Similar Essays

Feminism In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

1085 words - 4 pages Feminism in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood explores the role that women play in society and the consequences of a countryís value system. She reveals that values held in the United States are a threat to the livelihood and status of women. As one critic writes, “the author has concluded that present social trends are dangerous to individual welfare” (Prescott 151).  The novel is set in the

Feminism In "Top Girls" And "The Handmaid's Tale"

1594 words - 6 pages Both Top Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale relate to contemporary political issues and feminism. Top Girls was written by Caryl Churchill, a political feminist playwright, as a response to Thatcher’s election as a first female British Prime Minister. Churchill was a British social feminist in opposition to Thatcherism. Top Girls was regarded as a unique play about the challenges working women face in the contemporary business world and society at

Vision Of Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

1228 words - 5 pages Feminism in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood is a prominent theme. This novel represents the morals and horrors of a vision of feminism, which is sometimes taken to the extremes. Women’s rights have been downgraded and as a result of this women are used to bear children and are constantly watched by the eye. The Handmaids are considered powerful figures in the novels’ society while living in a dystopia of cultural

Handmaid's Tale. Is Atwood's Novel Ultimately A Feminist Work Of Literature Or Does It Offer A Critique Of Feminism?

1136 words - 5 pages never understand each other thus, they are unlikely to unite and overthrow the oppressive regime.Feminism is at the core of this novel as the plot revolves around it. Through this novel Atwood shows women as powerless, in a society completely unfamiliar for today's modern society. The author manages to balance the moving tale of one woman and the message of a whole society turned upside down. It is not a prophecy of things to come, but a warning that we must not become nonchalant about feminism and that we must remember that our society can change, and not always for the better.