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The Handmaids Tale In Novel And Film

3039 words - 12 pages

The Handmaid's Tale in Film and Novel The Ceremony: the impregnation of the Handmaid, a compulsory monthly ritual at the beginning of the 21st century in the Republic of Gilead, the country formerly known as the United States of America. The dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood presents a clear and understandable view of the Gilead society and the role of Handmaids therein, which the film adaptation by director Volker Schlondorff fails to accomplish, especially in terms of plot, character, and narration. The story concerns the government of Gilead enforcing a brutal crackdown on freedoms, especially women's, restricting their functions to those of wives, servants and handmaids. The Handmaid's role is to have babies for the childless, as inspired by the Biblical example of Rachel who instructed her husband Jacob to conceive a child upon her handmaid Bilhah. In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood adeptly constructs the plot to provide an understanding of the Gilead society. Atwood inventively begins her novel with the main character, a Handmaid, called Offred, recalling an event from her past. Offred tells the Handmaids "slept in what had once been the gymnasium" (Atwood 3) and then describes how the room would be used if it were still a gymnasium. This creative introduction to the novel alerts the reader to what is happening, and asks them to inquire about the setting. As more facts are unveiled, the reader becomes conscious of what has previously happened to place the characters in their predicament, and of Offred's role is in her society. Offred is a Handmaid, like many other women in the story. A prominent Atwood critique, Elaine Kendall correctly describes the Handmaid's life: The Handmaid's only outside activities is shopping for food, but after each of these carefully monitored excursions, she must return to her cell-like room. Handmaids are not allowed to read, hold jobs or own property; an abrogation of right justified by the Scripture-quoting theocrats in power (Knedall 149).Atwood indicates that these women have no authority and that they are very limited to what they can do. In contrast, the director of the film, Volker Schlondorff, changes various plot events altering Atwood's feministic message, concerning the unfair treatment of women, created through the Gilead society. Film critique Desson Howe best comments on the lack of intended plot elements: "German director Volker Schlondorff and screenwriter Harold Pinter scoop the surface aspects of Margaret Atwood's novel carefully, but leave her darker implications about abortion, fundamentalist-type beliefs and individual freedoms swinging in a facile, finger-wagging wind" (Howe). The film opens with a modified beginning, Kate (Offred), her husband, and her daughter trying to flee across the border. Her husband is killed and she does not know what happens to her daughter. The scene transforms to an old factory where officials, with important...

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