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The Handmaids Tale Essay

1111 words - 4 pages

ENGLISH ITERATURE ESSAY Chloe Reynolds "˜The Handmaid's Tale' written by Margaret Atwood is an extreme dystopic vision of the oppression of women, their rights and feminist values. Atwood describes a theocracy in which women are "˜walking wombs' intended for reproduction only. In Gilead, the arbitrary in which the tale is set, women are denied their identities and their own personal freedom. To overcome this dehumanisation, the feminist icons in the story such as Offred, the lead character, resort to reminiscing about the pasts as an escape route from this totalitarian regime.Atwood heightens the dystopic effects of her novel through allusion. Allusion legitimises the worst aspects of this society using the Rachel and Bilhah story from Genesis 30 that ultimately perverts the true intent of Rachel's actions. In this story, Rachel uses Bilhah, her maid, as a surrogate mother because she is unable to produce children for her husband Jacob and, hence, uses a handmaiden.The ironic thing is that all biblical allusions are selected in order to underwrite patriarchal interest. Irony is a very important tool is Atwood's commentary. The way the authorities have tried to create a utopia has, in-turn, created a dystopia. The vision of an ideal or model world shrouded in harmony has been clouded by an unrealistic, unimaginable world that could only be called a Dystopia. Women are the centre of this dystopia, without them the Gileadian society would be non existent, yet women are treated as institutionalised sex victims with no freedom to choose their own lovers or even keep the children they bear. Children beared by the handmaids go straight to the commander's wives as if they are nothing more than a business transaction, even prizes, " The commander's wife looks down at the baby as if it is a bouquet of flowers, something she's won, a tribute." P136 The society of Gilead and the role of the handmaid is based around sex and pregnancy as social obligations, not personal choices. Women are still treated as objects, degraded, controlled and undermined by a distorted theocracy. "We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices." P146 Offred refuses to lose her perspective and continually reminisces about her pat to help maintain her sanity. This is the "˜reconstruction' technique that Atwood uses in her commentary. It humanises Offred, making her appear as if she does actually have thoughts, feelings and memories, she has not yet been broken by society. Offred does not openly disagree with what is going on around her, she discreetly sits on the fence and does what is necessary, nothing more, nothing less. " I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to is, this wanting." P132 Offred accepts the fact hat there is nothing she can do to change the situation that she is in so she lives with it. Moira, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She is Offred's best friend and a pillar of feminism. Moira...

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