Essay, Research Paper: Handmaid's Tale
are open to an oppressive society of which seems to be the near future.
Widespread sterility has led to the rich controlling young women of childbearing
age, who are called “handmaidens”. The tale is narrated by Kate, also known
as “Offred”, her handmaid name. She relates her struggle throughout in the
most vivid of ways. The struggle around her: the oppressive Republic of Gilead,
and the struggle within herself: her effort to maintain her sanity. Her
narration is tainted with one main motive, which is her relentless pursuit for
the past. The way things used to be things that were so basic to her. Moreover,
it is her strive to regain the freedom she has been stripped of which guides
her. It is her light at the end of a tunnel she has involuntarily been placed.
In the republic of Gilead, women are categorized as Wives, Marthas, Aunts and
Handmaids. The latter is considered to be the most valuable of their resources,
for they are able to bear children. This society uses a systematic approach to
produce offspring, in other words, for the republic to grow. The commanders,
top- ranking officials of Gilead, are the wives’ husbands. Every so often,
“ceremonies” are held where the Commander would attempt to impregnate the
handmaid. If successful, the child was claimed by the wives as theirs. The
handmaid was not more than a means to an end result. Violation of the norms was
not tolerated. The punishment in the most cases was death, which also served as
an example to the handmaids. Thus conformity with the rules was a necessity to
stay alive, something she questioned if it was worth or not. In the end, Kate is
accused of attending Jezebel’s with the Commander. Jezebel’s can be
described as a getaway within the republic. A gathering of people who are there
to socialize. Something Kate had been deprived from. In the final moments of her
tale, as she sees guards come for her arrest (or so she thought) she
contemplates suicide as an alternative for her demise. It was an option she
highly welcomed for she rather give up her life than her sanity and her freedom.
The guards who took her over came in with Nick (the driver), a character who
played a positive role in her stay. They hop in the van. Destination: Unknown.
In the end, Atwood leaves up in the air the outcome of Kate’s removal. More
likely than not, it is a positive one hinted by Nick’ appearance in the end.
Aside from the story one can find the underlying theme to be one that is not
defined with one word. It is the idea of us taking such a basic right as
freedom, in its many forms, for granted. Many at times, the only time we
acknowledge what we have is when it is taken from us. In addition, another
thematic issue notable to mention is the classification or categorization of the
female gender. In the story, the women carry on a label, which goes in
accordance to the roles they play in this fictitious society. We must consider
ourselves very fortunate for not living in a real-life Gilead. Nevertheless, the
genre of this novel is not fantasy but rather fiction and thus implying this can
actually occur. We must then recognize the problems that Atwood was trying to
point out. The relationship between Gilead and our society is the fact that
gender does play a major factor on the way we are expected to behave. Not
drastically, such as in the novel but enough to coerce us to conduct ourselves
distinctively and play the assigned role of our gender.
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