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 marry. Women are taught that they should be subservient to men and should only be concerned with bearing children. Margaret Atwood writes The Handmaid's Tale (1986) as to create a dystopia. A dystopia is an imaginary place where the condition of life is extremely bad, from deprivation, oppression, or terror. Three ways she displays the dystopia are through the characters, the language and the symbolism.
The first way Atwood makes her dystopian novel believable is through the characters she uses. The characters are a big part in creating her dystopian society and contribute to the overall affect of the novel. Through the characters' actions and thoughts, the true dystopian society is revealed.
One example of an influential character is the Commander. A Commander is an elite man who has a Wife and gets to have a Handmaid. The Commanders might seem to be acceptable with the whole set-up; however, there are clubs (Jezebel's for example) where these men get to go and mingle with an array of prostitutes. The Commanders go to Jezebel's to get away from the strict society. This is a quote from when the Commander takes Offred to Jezebel's, which explains a little more about the rebellion displayed by going to the club. The Commander tells Offred, "No nicotine-and-alcohol taboos here! You see, they do have some advantages here" (page 238). Clubs are things of the past according to Gilead, but these men show the reader how rebellion has come through this seemingly perfect society. The Commanders' characters show the reader how even men who do get privileges, such as ownership and the ability to read, are unhappy with the society.
Another example is Ofglen. Ofglen is Offred's shopping partner who is a member of Mayday, which is an underground organization dedicated to overthrowing Gilead. Although Ofglen and Offred are shopping partners, they hardly know anything about each other. Ofglen doesn't know if Offred is part of the resistance and asks her during one of their shopping trips. This is the conversation,
"'I thought you were a true believer,' [Ofglen] says.
'I thought you were,' I say.
'You were always so stinking pious.'
'So were you,' I reply.
'You can join us,' she says" (page 168).
This is the conversation where Ofglen tells about her part in the resistance. Ofglen is an important character in Awood's creation of dystopia because she is the one who adds the idea that there are multitudes of people who hate the way the republic is handling things. She is the one who says that there is an...