The Character of Offred in The Handmaid's Tale, Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2022-03-11
The Character of Offred in The Handmaid's Tale, Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Character analysis The Handmaid's Tale Gender in literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1137 words
10 min read

For the new readers out there, Offred is the main character of The Handmaid's Tale novel by Margaret Atwood. It is set up in a dystopian future characterized by Christian theocracy in America. The plot tends to follow various events as seen in the eyes of Offred; a woman forced to become a surrogate mother to a ranked official. The novel deal with themes such as religious fundamentalism, freedom variation, and female subjugation. It is seen as a modern classic that has attracted studies and banishment in equal measures. It cemented the author as one of the greatest modern-day writers, a feminist classic, and a warning to what might occur in the future.

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Does the character shape her destiny? To answer the question, it is imperative that she is not in control of her destiny. Since the dystopian government took place, it began slowly limiting women, their rights to have jobs. Offred, in this case, tried to escape with her husband and child, only to be captured, sent to a re-education center and trained to be a Handmaid. Since she married a divorced man, she is seen as impure thus forced into sexual slavery to satisfy the commander's desire for children (Strehle. p 737).

Offred every moment is checked, whether that is where she goes, what she does, eat or drink, everything is monitored and regulated by the master. Even her name suggests that she doesn't control her destiny. She is assigned to a new name whenever she is taken by an officer that denotes her as a possession (Atwood. p.7). It is disgusting in every bit to hear that, and this goes out through the window, as religious fundamentalism advocates for a sober society where everyone is treated in a manner befitting human beings. The commander uses her body whenever he feels like, and the wife cannot complain. The wife goes an extra mile in sitting beside her during her husband intimacy.

She is aware that disobedience attracts arrests, beating, and eventually being shipped off to one of the colonies to be overworked. She decides to do what she is told, never put a foot wrong. She obeys the instructions given even those that are strictly illegal because if she goes against, it leads to a dangerous trend. Unlike other characters, she uses small acts of disobedience as a way of defying the society that has enslaved her for so long. She doesn't plan how to blow up the government buildings. Instead, she steals small things that only matter to her.

As the story goes on, she is given more powers by her master. It is evident that the commander wants to start a secret and illicit relationship with her when her role as a Handmaid is supposed to limit her only to procreation and nothing else. Thus she uses this to her advantage. Sleeping with the chauffeur is an act of rebellion since the religious doctrine doesn't prescribe the same, since being a Handmaid should make her vessel for the rich (Bouson. p 23). Her relationship with the chauffeur is sensual, and she can meet her own sexual needs rather than satisfy another person.

Offred goals are straightforward, to stay alive in the current situation. She strives to know what happened to her husband and child. Given what she saw, she is optimistic nonetheless. She desires to have a baby as well if only she won't be taken away to the labor camp if suspected that she is barren. She is not sterile, but her master can't sire a child, but since he is the commander, it doesn't seem a good prospectus. The commander's wife knows the situation. Hence she is trying every bit to have her pregnant.

Her character as seen in the story is very consistent, conscious, an intelligent being, compassionate to others, but lack a good sense of humor. She sometimes can be self-serving and given to bouts of despair occasionally (Chieco. p 81). She is attracted to small things thus imagine how things would have turn out if the regime continued, and allows her mind to wander a bit. She is a bit of every woman in her doings when you compare with other characters in the book. Her personality takes the back seat so that she can experience life as given. This allows the reader to fathom much quickly, even though it is trickier to pull it off. The author does well in this case.

For Offred, the ability to bear children is the only important thing that keeps her from being sent to colonies. Her sexual power is the only thing she has since the Commander family depends on her for children. It is the only thing that comes to her aid since most of her mates spend more time in labor camps. She is not a willing participant in this arrangement even though she did sign up for this; she didn't have any viable alternatives. In this case, her feelings for Commander are complicated, since he has her life in his hands, but the master desire to have a more intimate relationship gives her more power she has been yearning for.

Offred character is developed over the course of the story. Before, she was accustomed to her position as a Handmaid, and the struggles to deal with sorrow and vagueness over the unknown whereabouts of her husband and daughter. As the story wears on, she becomes more defiant and less cautious to realize that she got nothing to lose.

Her most prominent weakness is cowardice, and she knowingly admits, so it is the fear that held her back from achieving her dreams. Her self-loathing is another weakness that affects Offred. She is disgusted by the choices she makes, often criticizing her from inside her head. This, in turn, feeds into her cowardice and eventually leads her into doing things she is uncomfortable with, but she is not that brave to say no (Chieco p.82).

In concluding, her character isn't a significant influence on the plot. She is a passive character, even though it is due to the totalitarian state that is continuously oppressing her, she tends just to accept the way things are, hoping that she will be all right in the end. This is a real picture of her position in the society. She is seen as not responsible abundant to act by herself, so the opportunities she has to do are taken away from her.

Works cited

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.

Strehle, Susan et al. "Margaret Atwood: Bringing Back the Treasure." Contemporary Literature, vol 58, no. 4, 2013, p. 737. University Of Wisconsin Press.

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