The Handmaid 's Tale : Manipulation Of Power

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Manipulation of Power in The Handmaid 's Tale 116PAGES ON
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Anna Krainc Prof. Richards Gender in Literature 29 January 2013

Manipulation of Power in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of a future dystopia where individuals use power from their position in society to manipulate others. The Commander, a high-up in Gilead’s hierarchy, initiates a forbidden, though at first non-sexual, affair with his Handmaid and uses his power to direct the relationship to sex. While Handmaid Offred expresses her surprise at the affair’s seeming lack of sexuality, author Margaret Atwood uses nuanced figurative language to reveal the underlying sexual and manipulative nature of the Commander’s desires. Atwood compares positional and coercive power to warfare and animal confrontations and emphasizes reward power with sexualized language. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood uses figurative language to argue that in a society without sex, individuals will manipulate power they have to obtain it.

Atwood’s use of warfare language shows how the Commander uses his power over Offred to intimidate her before initiating the affair. He lurks around Offred’s room, as if scouting out the territory. Offred deliberates, “Something has been shown to me, but what is it? Like the flag of an
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