The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood Discuss The Gileadean Concept Of "Freedom To, Freedom From"

1318 words - 5 pages

The dystopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale' implies the fact that there are two types of freedom, freedom to and freedom from. It is the paradox between 1980's America and Gilead that is examined continually throughout the novel and it's the ideas of 'freedom to' being a society of broad-minded morals and 'freedom from' the more controlled, restrictive society with an imposition upon individual freedom that are most prominent. In Atwood's thought-provoking novel, two societies with conflicting ideologies and concepts of liberty are juxtaposed through a series of flashbacks in an attempt to examine how people would cope when society suddenly deprived its people of freedom and denied them of information.The first society of modern America with its liberal customs, is compared and contrasted to the second society of Gilead, a totalitarian Christian authority which has taken control over America in the 1980's to save it from its declining birth rate and high levels of moral corruption. The protagonist of the novel, Offred, documents the history of the two contrasting societies as she recounts with both sentimentality and clarity, the images and memories of her past life as an American women and those of her present life living under the Gileadean regime as a Handmaid.What is most apparent throughout the novel, is that of Margaret Atwood's criticisms of the permissive approach of America and its people, towards the rising levels of corruption, degradation and immorality in modern society. It is this society that the reader can observe as 'freedom to', where a public is free to do as they please, whether it be correct or not, implying that society has reached a peak where it is bordering on spiralling out of control. The society that has implemented the fundamentalist approach of 'freedom from' is the Republic of Gilead, where the limitations on personal freedom and living conditions are a stark contrast to that of the preceding society.The ideal of 'freedom from' adopted by Gilead is so extreme that when reading the novel, its dictatorial and tyrannical approach seems absurd and irrational. However, it is apparent that a retreat back to traditional values is what may have been necessary in order to pacify a society of debauchery and immorality. The reader, like Offred, is thrown into a foreign world, experiencing a similar sense of confusion and disorientation, as she may have. We, the readers, like Offred, seize any form of information as to what is going on, but perhaps the lack of information is part of the nightmare. It is the ideal of 'freedom from' that makes the new Gileadean administration unique.The quotation, "Freedom to, freedom from" is said by Aunt Lydia whilst Offred is at the Red Centre, where she is still training to become a Handmaid. She claims that the only two types are 'freedom to' and 'freedom from', and that although the Handmaids are used to having 'freedom to' in the past society, she says not to underrate the supposedly safer,...

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