The Handmaids Tale. Themes. Margaret Atwood's “The Handmaids Tale” has many obvious and underlining themes. She leaves the readers with something to think about as most of which happens in the novel could become real in our own world one day.
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The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood's “The Handmaids Tale” has many obvious and underlining themes. She leaves the readers with something to think about as most of which happens in the novel could become real in our own world one day.
Her take on male dominance in society and feminism takes you back to the days before women rights where women where used for one reason and that was too cook , clean and take care of children.
It shows the possibilities of what could happen in a ever increasing world population and pollution rate. Atwood's ideas are very surreal because as much as we want to take in what we read from this book as another generation or world away it could very much so happen in the near future. The dictatorship and authority that this government in Gilead have over people is absolute control to the smallest things such as walking down the street you will be watched.
Manipulation and power is portrayed very effectively through out the book. It is one of the most important themes as Gilead is theocratic dictatorship so power imposed entirely from the top. Unlike a democratic society, where the people consent to be governed and therefore have an interest in maintaining the structures of society, in Gilead, the government cover the streets and even individual homes with guards and guns. This makes the handmaids very uncomfortable as they are constantly under surveillance. The only place for freedom is in their minds which creates a very powerful government with full control over the isolated handmaids and women of Gilead.
Offred learns that Handmaids kill themselves in order to maintain some final sense of power over their bodies and decisions, the thought of suicide is always in the back of her mind. Also throughout her relationship to the Commander, Offred gains real and her only type of power, but she is afraid to test its limits. Ultimately she discovers that her powers over him were useless, as he will do nothing to save her.
"There is more than one kind of freedom...Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it."
Feminism in The Handmaids Tale is a important theme as it shows the struggles that these woman of Gilead face to live their lives. Everything that women in the twentieth century went through to fight for women rights has been completely reversed. Men and women are separated by different levels of freedom and power, Gilead's social classifications work to separate women from each other, as well. It eliminates any sign of female power to not only all females but themselves individually.
They all have titles which separates them, such as Handmaids, Martha's, Wives and unwoman. The wives are enemies not companions and the feminist "sisterhood" of the past, in which Offred's mother played a significant role, is no longer there. They have become sub-human and are reduced to their fertility, treated as nothing more than a set of ovaries and a womb.
“Did I really wear bathing suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs and back were on display, could be seen. Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it's shameful or immodest but because I don't want to see it. I don't want to look at something that determines me so completely.”
Freedom and confinement in The Handmaids Tale is a very important theme because even the powerful live very restricted lives.
Handmaids are not allowed to do anything, they are confined to their rooms where occasional grocery shopping or special events such as the birth of a child or executions are their only outings. They are trapped by their low social status's and fertility bodies. If Handmaids become pregnant by their commanders they are rewarded by not being sent off to die. They are forced to birth a baby that they don’t want to bring into the world of Gilead and fathered by a man they do not love. Their bodies no longer belong to them they belong to the state. They are spied on, monitored, restricted by The Eyes, The Angels and The Guardians. The Handmaids even spy on one another, “The truth is that she is my spy, as I am hers.”
“We used to talk about buying a house like one of these, an old big house, fixing it up. We would have a garden, swings for the children. We would have children. Although we knew it wasn't too likely we could ever afford it, it was something to talk about, a game for Sundays. Such freedom now seems almost weightless.”