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The Handmaid's Tale Essay

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 Joy, as her high status in the society demands power and the domination over the inferior members of the Commander’s household, such as Offred – a handmaid. This shows that Serena Joy has a sense of control, using this privilege to become “a woman who might bend the rules”; this is similar to the Commander, as Serena Joy is able to associate herself with the black market, for example “exchanging trade” for relics of the past such as cigarettes. Through the black market, Atwood suggests that Serena Joy is a representation of a society based on a biblical view, thriving to become pure and perfect on the surface, yet the powerful figures that should exemplify obedience to the rules are constantly exploiting their authority.

Additionally, the presentation of Serena Joy as a character it made interesting by her contradiction of accepting the new-found Gileadean society; it is plain that she resents the arrangement of having a handmaid in the house keenly as a violation of her marriage; “My husband. I want that to be clear. Till death do us part”. Also, having a handmaid is a continual reminder of her crippled condition to not have children, and her fading feminine charms during her youth. Atwood demonstrates a sense of hatred and jealousy within Serena Joy, which is directed towards Offred as she is unintentionally an intruder and is invading Serena Joy’s private life. Eventually, this jealousy enables Serena Joy to try to obliviate Offred by “fixing it up with Nick”. Also, Serena Joy indicates that she is willing to “help” Offred by showing her a “picture”, “something you want”. However, all these actions are a result of Serena Joy’s self-interest and her manipulative personality, “there’s a hint of her former small-screen mannequin’s allure, flickering over her face like momentary static”. Consequently, Atwood highlights Serena Joy’s “roguish” actions caused by jealousy and a desire for revenge upon the very person who has been deprived her of possession of the Commander; she deliberately withheld the news of Offred’s lost daughter and the photograph that Offred has been longing for.

Atwood’s creation of Serena Joy and the presentation of her character are interesting, as Serena Joy emerges with natural power and a high status from her previous life as a media personality. Serena Joy has an aura of charismatic characteristics, which she used to present speeches about the...

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