|Type of paper:||Literature review|
|Categories:||Character analysis The Handmaid's Tale Gender in literature|
Margaret Atwood needs no introduction since she is the most popular and productive writers in the universe. Her works are taught in many educational setups across the world. They are the best sellers. She wrote her novel The Handmaid's Tale when religious fundamentalism had been established in the United States. Through this, and her own experience with the religious fundamentalism and feminism rising, it doesn't surprise that her works also deal with such thematic aspects. She copies her own experiences and religious fundamentalism imaginations into the futuristic and fictive world of Gilead.
The paper will deal with the character of Offred in Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale. It gazes at the historical context of religious fundamentalism and feminism. She is the most significant character in the entire novel since the entire book revolves around her. According to the story, she is an everywoman, where the name Offred isn't hers but a cutout from the masters' name. She says, "My name isn't Offred since I have another name where nobody uses now for it is forbidden"
The story talks about Offred, a handmaid in Gilead republic, seen by many as an authoritarian and theocratic formal replacing the United States of America. Since there are low birth rates, the Handmaids are consigned by their masters to sire kids for the wealthy couples that have a problem siring. She serves the Commander and his wife known as Serena Joy, a musician as well as an advocate for traditional values (Auerbach, Nina, and Margaret Atwood. p 1). The handmaid name contains the word "Of" then followed by the name of the master, hence Offred. Every month during her fertile point in her menstrual cycle, she must submit to her master and have anonymous and silent sex with him, while his wife holds Offred hands behind.
The society treats her like a container hence she is kept alive and out of danger because of his viable ovaries in the meantime, but her expiry date is looming. The above sentiment is against every known fact of religious fundamentalism and feminine aspect of life. She endures all these because she is a vessel and not human beings. She is mistreated by the same people who practice religion notwithstanding (Atwood. p 737).
Just like other women, Offred freedom is entirely restricted, since she can consent only to the precincts only to shop, and the door to her room can't be shut completely at any given time. She is being watched every public move by Gilead secret police.
As she tells the story, she slips into flashback frequently, hence we can rebuild the events that lead to the story commencement. Before Gilead began, she had a thing with a wedded man named Luke. He separated from her and wedded Offred and had a child. Her (Offred) mother was single as well as women's rights activist. Her best friend, by the name Moira, was ferociously independent (Auerbach, Nina, and Margaret Atwood. p 1).
Gilead architects began their rise to power when the vices that bedevil the society began, thus going against the religious doctrines set out by the initiators, for example, available pornography, the prostitution, and gender-based violence, and when pollution and the chemical spillage affected the fertility rates. By use of the military, they assassinated the president and other government officials. And launch a coup claiming it was temporary. What followed immediately, was a crackdown on women's constitutional rights. They weren't supposed to hold any property whatsoever or offered a job. Luke, took her and their daughter and tried to flee to Canada, but were held and alienated. She has neither seen her daughter nor her husband since it happened. (Bouson, J. Brooks. p 23)
After she was captured, her marriage was voided and she was sent to Red Center, which is according to the inhabitants. At this center, they were brainwashed into the new ideology in groundwork for being Handmaids. The supervisor of this center was Lydia, who gave speeches praising the beliefs of Gilead that females should be subservient to men and concerned simply with childbearing. The supervisor contends that such social direction offers women much more admiration as well as a safety than the ancient order. Her friend Moira is taken to the Centre but she manages to escape, and she doesn't know what befalls her afterward.
Once she is assigned to the Leader's house, her life resolves into this obstructive routine, she usually goes errands with Ofglen, another Handmaid. Offred is supposed to visit the specialist often so as to be tested for diseases and other problems. She is supposed to bear the ceremony where he reads from the bible to the family and then goes to his bedroom. After the formality, the commander directs Nick to ask Offred if she can the Commander in the study, and she accepts and sees him often to play scrabble together (Bouson, J. Brooks. p 25). Even though the game is forbidden to women since they are not allowed to read. He, the master, even allows her to read magazines like Vogue.
After some time without her getting pregnant for Commander, Serena proposes that she have sex with Nick in secret and pass the child as Commanders'. She assures her that she brings Offred a depiction of her daughter if she agrees. She, Offred, realizes that all this time Serena knew her daughter's whereabouts and she didn't bother to tell her. On that night when she decides to sleep with Nick, the Master takes her out to a Jezebel club secretly, where he mingles with whores. In that club, she sees her long lost friend Moira employed there in the club. They meet in the restroom and she learns that Moira was caught just in time before she traversed the border (Chieco, Kate R.P. 81). She chose to work in the club instead of being sent to the camps, where radical and dangerous convicts are sent. Since then, they have not seen each other again (Chieco, Kate R. p 82).
In conclusion, Margaret Atwood works show that the religious aspect that used to shape the older society is now not working, and it has been replaced by new ways of doing things. Gilead society tries to rectify what the past regime started. In every society, once vices that lead it astray are identified, measures should be put in place even when it seems impossible to achieve. The narrator saw education has eradicated the normal way of doing things thus through the action of the Commander and his people, they have tried very hard in ensuring that normalcy returns in a manner befitting the society.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. London, Vintage, 2017,
Bouson, J. Brooks. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Pasadena, Calif., Salem Press, 2010,
Chieco, Kate R. "Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale. By Margaret Atwood. New York: Ballentine Books, 1987. 395 Pp., $4.95 (Paperback)." Affilia, vol 21, no. 25, 2012, pp. 81-82. SAGE Publications, doi: 10.1177/088610998700200213.
Strehle, Susan et al. "Margaret Atwood: Bringing Back the Treasure." Contemporary Literature, vol 58, no. 4, 2013, p. 737. University Of Wisconsin Press, doi: 10.2307/3250593.
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