Literary Analysis of the Handmaids Tale

1863 Words8 Pages
Erica Clark
Professor Kachman
WR 121
20 February 2013
Adverse Effects of Oppressive Dystopias A genuine identity and individuality is not possible in an oppressive environment especially when one’s daily life, actions, and thoughts are dictated by domineering societal expectations. Oppressive environments such as regimes controlled by a dictatorship and that run off a totalitarian government system strip an individual of their civil rights as a human being in order to gain ultimate control over its citizens. A government such as the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s work, The Handmaid’s Tale, controls their citizen’s lives to the extent to where they must learn to suppress their emotions and feelings. In the Republic of
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This is exemplified when Offred hears Aunt Lydia say, “Ordinary is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary” (Atwood 33). The repetition of ordinary is used to reinforce how harsh realities (e.g. public execution) are perceived and justified as normal by the citizens of Gilead; however, in Offred’s previous life, she would have been repulsed to see a public hanging of an innocent person. With Aunt Lydia’s presence and words casting a shadow in Offred’s mind, she begins to have a sense of normalcy about life in Gilead. The Aunt Lydia’s words are so powerful and influential that Offred begins to transform her way of thinking, which mirrors the lack of individuality that she displays. Not only can Offred not think for herself, but her vision is also controlled by Gilead. For instance, Offred and other handmaids must wear white wings, which are a headdress to restrict their vision. This is shown when Atwood writes, “There remains a mirror, on the hall wall. If I turn my head so that the white wings framing my face direct my vision towards it…[I see] myself in it like a distorted shadow” (9). The white wings are symbolic of her not being able to see reality and only what Gilead wants her to see; therefore, her vision is restricted and so are her thoughts. Furthermore, her vision is not
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