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 colonies.

Control dominates all aspects of Gileadian society, from minor, seemingly petty normalities such as the clothes allowed, all the way up to how and who to have sexual relations with. Unimaginable in this day, Atwood represents modern society gone sour, something which is chillingly close enough to reality to get worried about.

As just mentioned, Uniform is a necessity of Gileadian society, for all layers of the hierarchy, even the top. Commanders wear black, wives blue, whilst the Marthas sport green overalls and the econowives symbolically flaunting their use throughout the home, rather than for one specific task, wearing striped clothing. The Handmaid's themselves wear blood red, a sign of fertility. Each item worn has some significance readying to this fertility even their "flat heeled shoes to save the spine."

"Everything except the wings around my face is red... I never looked good in red, it's not my colour."

The wings worn on the head prevent others from seeing their face and vice versa, prevents them from looking anywhere except the direction in which they are facing, limiting their options to stray. All garments cover every inch of skin; Ankle length skirt, full sleeves and red gloves all worn by the Handmaid's prevent temptation for others and themselves. They also wear a flat yoke over their breasts for the same reason, deindividualising them down to every last measurement, making them easier, to treat as commodities rather than personalities.

The most blatent form of control would of course be the punishments given for resistance and the retribution given out for disobeying the state. These, in Gilead, are really rather harsh and such things as homosexuality can resut in death, under the term "Gender treachery." This is positively appalling to any civilised person believing in equal rights and death is almost absurd for such a non-crime. It seems that the society has medieval tendencies, which can be expected seeing that it's main doctrine is taken from the most ancient book, the Bible. Still obviously this is no excuse for such barbaric acts in a modern society.

Salvagings are also a horrible concept used by Atwood. All Handmaid's and other women in the society are forced to attend the hangings of fellow women, often arranged on the nooses by their colours so they look "pretty." A harsh warning not to step out of line. Also occasionally during the salvagings a rapist or murderer is thrown to the handmaid's who rip him apart with their own...

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