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Satire And Feminism In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

1362 words - 6 pages

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the mandatory sex roles and blatant disregard of women’s rights in Gilead work as an effective satire, and it is quite possible that they are viewed by none of it’s citizens as a step in the direction of the common good. In many ways it could have once been seen as the common good, because the system in essence will provide for optimal procreation, but the ways in which Gilead carries out this system are deeply flawed. The way Gilead carries out its half baked ideas is, first and foremost, hilariously satirical when described by Atwood through her use of characters, theme, and the idea of feminism, and taken into question by critic Shirley Neuman. ...view middle of the document...

..there are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law”(Atwood 61). Officially, the responsibility to procreate falls solely on the shoulders of women, while the act of even saying that a man might be unable to reproduce is illegal. The way in which all women in the society are treated shows the complete lack of equality. The handmaids are constantly treated as only objects used to hold a uterus and eventually, a child. Even their red habits suggest that their only use is for sex, with red being the color of fertility. However, the irony that these handmaids must wear habits, something that so completely covers their bodies to desexualize them, but their job is solely to have sex and get pregnant, is a further example that this society is completely ludicrous. Women in this society are only good for few things, domestic service or fertility. Offred “used to think of [her] body as an instrument of pleasure…”(Atwood 73) but now she is just “a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear…”(Atwood 73-74). Women in Gilead were forced to give up everything that made them women to serve the ‘greater good’. Now, all women are simply named for their position and rarely, if ever, called by their true name. While men are called by name and by ranking. Women don’t have choice in what they are, they are just a “martha” of “wife” or “handmaid” with no way to promotion or career change; men hold all the power.
The freedoms that women must forgo are far more than those men must forgo. Even worse, men have an illegal outlet, while women never would have that opportunity unless taken there by a man; and even in this setting she will still be under that man’s control, never able to exercise true free will. For example, while at Jezebel's, the illusion of freedom is there, but only for the high ranking men that can get in. The women with them still have to do what they are told. When the commander takes Offred up to a room, she knows what he is expecting and she is not all that interested but she thinks to herself that she needs to “fake it…[she] must remember how”(Atwood 255). The fact that she needs to ‘fake it’ further shows that she has no choice; she doesn’t have the option of saying no, it is essentially rape. Even things that women are under the illusion they still have, for example, what the wives ‘fought for’, have been taken away from them. Serena Joy mentions that their husbands were “one of the things [they] fought for”(Atwood 16), but the thing is, their husbands still are not their own. They still had to give that up too, even if they don’t realize it. The act of assigning a handmaid to a commander breaks...

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