The basis for chaos and forced conformity in Gilead arises from the various naming methodologies that have been established. From the opening chapters, readers are exposed to the subdivision of women into their respective roles in society. These different labels include “Marthas”, “Wives”, “Handmaids”, “Econowives”, and “Unwomen”. Although these assigned names allow the regime to organize masses of people, they have simply created an unruly hierarchy, where the Wives at the top continually exercise their authority over other women in the households. In the first Ceremony, Serena Joy physical asserts this hierarchy by using the “rings of her left hand [to] cut into [Offred’s] fingers” (pg.107). Apart from women, the names for different locations further indicate the regime’s attempts at manipulation.
In Gilead the social relationship that once existed between men and women is a thing of the past. In the former society women had value and felt good about themselves and how they looked. However, in the new society the men have stripped the women of their freedom and equality and lowered them to varying degrees of status. The young healthy women are labeled handmaids and are "issued" (24) by the government to various high-ranking officials in order to offer them the opportunity to create offspring. Getting pregnant is their only hope of survival. Females who are not of childbearing age are called Marthas because their purpose is to work and serve the men. A third category of women is labeled Unwomen because of their worthlessness in this male dominated society. All three categories are divided into colonies to prevent their rebelling against the system. Also, within each colony communication is limited and higher education is denied. In order to enforce this kind of oppressive social structure, the government uses various forms of intimidation.
When the Handmaids become pregnant things become very dangerous for them. The wives in the caste do not have the power that the Handmaids do and they see that as threatening. They become jealous at such a degree they begin to believe things about the Handmaids. They make the Handmaids out to be the least important and view them as disgusting and vile. They are seen by the wives as encroachers onto their territories, stealing their husbands and their possible pregnancies. They are seen by the Martha’s as despicable, that they chose life as a Handmaid. In their eyes the Handmaid wants to be a Handmaid. The Martha’s believe that a Handmaid loves their life, being able to lust around with other women’s husbands.
“I feel thankful to her. She has died that I may live. I will mourn later” (Atwood 286). Many sacrifices and hard decisions are made by unorthodox people to keep what they believe in alive. There would be no rebellions and no change without these nonconforming people. Offred, the main character and a Handmaiden, would have faced eminent death in her strictly orthodox world had it not been for the rebelliousness of those who died before her wanting change. The Republic of Gilead, previously known as the United States, is a theocracy. Environmental events and population decline prompt changes. A caste system is created, and each caste performs specific duties. They are punished if the laws are not followed. The Eyes are at the top of the caste system; they make sure the laws are obeyed. Next are the Commanders and their Wives. The Handmaiden’s main task is to produce a child with their Commander. In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, some unorthodox characters challenge the theocracy such as Offred, Ofglen, and Nick.
Margaret Atwood’s harrowing novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, follows the story of a woman marginalized by the theocratic oligarchy she lives in; in the Republic of Gilead, this woman has been reduced to a reproductive object who has her body used to bear children to the upper class. From the perspective of the modern reader, the act of blatant mistreatment of women is obvious and disturbing; however, current life is not without its own shocking abuses. Just as the Gileadian handmaid was subject to varied kinds of abuse, many modern women too face varied kinds of abuses that include psychological, sexual, and financial abuse.
To begin, the red color of the handmaid’s dresses represents the immorality of the services they provide to the powerful commanders and their wives. In Gilead handmaids are mandated to have sex with their commanders in the hopes of baring a child. Giving birth to a healthy child is the ultimate goal of the handmaids that they must devote themselves entirely to in order to be safe under authoritarian rule. The red color of their dresses is a constant reminder to themselves and others that their importance is their fertility. Offred the protagonist states, “everything except the
In The Handmaid’s Tale, the Gilead regime oppresses women in many different ways; they take complete control over their bodies, they
The Handmaid's Tale is set in the early twentieth century in the futuristic Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States of America. The Republic has been founded by a Christian response to declining birthrates. The government rules using biblical teachings that have been distorted to justify the inhumane practices. In Gilead, women are categorized by their age, marital status and fertility. Men are categorised by their age. Women all have separate roles in society, and although these roles are different, they all share the same theme: Every woman is confined to the home and has a domestic duty. Marthas are cooks and housekeepers, and handmaids have one duty, which is to reproduce, growing and giving birth to babies to the childless
In the Republic of Gilead, children are seen as lawful possessions of wealthy, powerful couples like the Commander and his wife. As such, women called ‘handmaids’ have been reduced to two basic functions, breeding and buying groceries. Moreover, since women are prohibited to vote, write or read, the grocery store labels all of the products
With these changes to society, members often felt bounded by Gilead and the ability to control one’s thoughts appears impossible, as Aunt Lydia tells Offred, “The Republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you” (Atwood 23). It appears that Aunt Lydia believes that Gilead is an internal part of each individual and therefore, it is always helping to ‘shape’ one’s thoughts and actions. Gilead’s justification of why women don’t need an education is that since a woman’s purpose in society is to bear children and raise them, they no longer require an education to perform such duties. The male population of Gilead did not lose the same rights that the women lost, however, males still have restricted freedom and restricted access to materials (books, magazines, etc). The restrictions placed on women’s and men’s lives in Gilead appear to match a characteristic of a dystopia. Since men and women don’t receive the same education in Gilead due to the restrictions on freedom, it would be improper to consider Gilead a utopia.
Interestingly, Gilead does not have an equivalent term for men, there is no such thing as “Unman”. Perhaps this could be attributed to Gilead’s is a cult of mother worship in a time of uncontrollable productiveness? Like the Kingdom of God, the Republic of Gilead is both now and not yet. America has never forced fertile women to bear children for infertile ones, but Trump’s inappropriate antic presidency has given cover to the sort of blatant misogyny many thoughts consigned to the past. In this place, all women are being anticipated to aspire to motherhood as their greatest, indeed their only goal. So, the worst thing you can call a woman is not a woman, an Unwoman. Why is this, you tell a woman who not only do some certain feminists argue about how women have the superior value and how they build a superior society. What does this say about the value of men in Gilead? All these men were being expected to obey their ruler unquestioningly. Though they have greater access to knowledge the women, their freedom is severely limited. The government controls almost all the media only broadcasting religious and propaganda programs to have been news. Materials like books, magazines, CDs, etc.
In Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’, we hear a transcribed account of one womans posting ‘Offred’ in the Republic of Gilead. A society based around Biblical philosophies as a way to validate inhumane state practises. In a society of declining birth rates, fertile women are chosen to become Handmaids, walking incubators, whose role in life is to reproduce for barren wives of commanders. Older women, gay men, and barren Handmaids are sent to the colonies to clean toxic waste.
In today’s news we see many disruptions and inconsistencies in society, and, according to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, humankind might be headed in that direction. The deterioration of society is a concept often explored biologically in novels, but less common, is the effect on everyday social constructs such as the position of women as a item that can be distributed and traded-in for a ‘better’ product. The Handmaid’s Tale elaborates the concept that, as societal discrimination towards women intensifies, gender equality deteriorates and certain aspects of societal freedoms are lost. Offred’s experience with serving Gilead demonstrates a victim’s perspective and shows how the occurring changes develope the Republic.
The laws of Gilead dehumanizes women and takes away their rights as citizens to society. Gilead wasn’t always like that until the revolution overcame the town and took away women's rights. “In Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, women are totally under the control of male members of the patriarchal society; she describes a patriarchal society and reflects the political ideology in America of that time.” Women are downgraded without any authority and control by men. “Women are like birds that are kept in cages to stop them from flying. And the authorities make women believe that this society is very secure for them and they are protected in this way of living. They also make women believe that the new way is a better freedom and God will save them if they follow.” They are taking the laws made by Gilead and comparing
The assigned roles of the women help to form the socially acceptable relationships of Gilead. The most formal of the man-woman relationships in The Handmaid’s Tale is that of the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. On the surface, these two people appear to everyone as a lovely married couple – one obedient to the State and it’s rules. The reader knows that Serena is protective over her husband from the beginning –