Essay Romantic Love in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

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Romantic Love in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale In her novel The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood addresses the concept of different expression of romantic love through the eyes of Offred, a woman who has lost almost all her freedom to a repressive, dystopic society. Throughout her struggle against oppression and guilt, Offred's view evolves, and it is through this process that Atwood demonstrates the nature of love as it develops under the most austere of circumstances. The first glimses of romantic love one notes in this novel are the slivers of Offred's memeories of Luke, her husband from whom she has been separated. For the most part they are sense memories--she recalls most of all images of comfort: of lying in her…show more content…
It's lack of love we die from. There's nobody here I can love, all the people I love are dead or elsewhere" (131-132). This presents her to the readers as alone, but seeking some comfort in her life--something more than a physical relationship. Her relationship with the commander is transient--one of convenience and necessity. Her feelings for him are ambiguous, and confusing even to her. She muses: "I ought to feel hatred for this man. I know I ought to feel it, but it isn't what I do feel. What I feel is more complicated than that. I don't know what to call it. It isn't love" (76). So we see that Offred sets up this relationship as the antithesis of romantic love--a foil for her relationships with both Luke and Nick. It is forced: a physical act devoid of desire, and in it she feels dominated and trapped. How she describes herself in relation to this situation, even at her most empowered (when she is with him in her office), is very revealing. Calling herself "an attentive pet, prick-eared and eager to perform" (238), she tolerates this relationship for the tiny bit of power it can afford her in this dystopic society. And yet, there is something more to this, because she admits to taking an interest in their social interaction: "I don't love the commander, or anything like it, but he's of interest to me, he occupies space, he is more than a shadow" (211). This last
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