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Theocracy in The Handmaid's Tale

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Kendra Voogt

on 11 June 2015

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Transcript of Theocracy in The Handmaid's Tale

Title:
The Handmaid's Tale
Author:
Margaret Atwood
Topic:
Theocracy in the World Today

Summary of Novel
What is Theocracy?
"A form of government in which God and religion are the main focus. The rules and laws come straight from the Bible no matter how cruel or inhuman some may seem. Leaders consist of religious figures and interpret laws based on their own beliefs."

Some aspects of theocracy highlighted in the novel are:
-Direct interpretation of a religious text
-Religious leaders in position of power
-Subjugation of women
-Rejection of other faiths







Direct Interpretation of a Religious Text
“The Commander begins to read. Its the usual story. The usual stories. God to Adam, God to Noah. Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Then comes the stuff we had drummed into us at the Center. Give me children, or else I will die. Behold my maid Bilah, She shall bear upon my knees, that I may have children by her. And so on and so forth." (Atwood, 88)
Theocracy in Our World Today
Bibliography
Breuer, Anja. "Biblical Influences on The Handmaid's Tale."
The Handmaid's Tale. 2003. Web. 31 May 2015.

"Democratic Underground Forums."
Margaret Atwood on Religion. 2006. Web. 31 May 2015.

Barnard, Anne. "ISIS Onslaught Engulfs Assyrian Christians as Militants Destroy Ancient Art." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 May 2015.

Boland, Barbara. "Boko Haram Carries Out 'Planned Genocide' Against Christians
in Nigeria on Sunday." CNS News. 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 May. 2015.

Chothia, Farouk. "Who Are Nigeria's Boko Haram?" BBC News. 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 31 May 2015.

Fukuyama, Francis. "Iran, Islam and the Rule of Law." Wall Street Journal. 27 July 2009. Web. 31 May 2015.

"The Structure of Power in Iran." Frontline. PBS, n.d. Web. 31 May 2015.
Analysis
Religious Leaders in Charge of Population
“If we could identify the elusive “Commander,” we felt, at least some progress would’ve been made. We argued that such a highly placed individual had probably been a participant in the first of the top-secret Sons of Jacob Think Tanks, at which the philosophy and social structure of Gilead were hammered out" (Atwood, 306).
Analysis
Subjugation of Women
“I get up out of the chair, advance my feet into the sunlight, in their red shoes, flat heeled to save the spine and not for dancing. The red gloves are lying on the bed. I pick them up, pull them onto my hands, finger by finger. Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle length, full, the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed issue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen” (Atwood, 8).
Analysis
Rejection of Other Faiths
“We go to the church, as usual, and look at the graves. Then to the Wall. Only two hanging on it today: one Catholic, not a priest though, placarded with an upside-down cross, and some other sect I don’t recognize. The body is marked with a J, in red. It doesn’t mean Jewish, those would be yellow stars” (Atwood 200).

Analysis
Kendra Voogt
ENG-4U1

Note: "the Center" is where all Handmaid's were sent to essentially be brainwashed into thinking their new form of society was normal and just.
Biblical Influences
In the Republic of Gilead, biblical references, mostly from the books Jeremiah and Genesis run through all aspects of everyday life.

An example would be the secret police in Gilead called the Eyes. "They are called the Eyes to put fear into people and to make them remember that God is always watching them."


The government thinks that if Offred, and the other Handmaid's are constantly surrounded by scripture, that the message they are trying to convey will eventually sink in.

In our world today, the group ISIS "justifies" their actions by directly interpreting the Quran.
Quran 5:33—The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter.
All leaders in Gilead act from the Bible and make laws that adhere to their own beliefs.
Example: Since most women were not able to reproduce, leaders saw it fit to enslave the rest of women who had viable uteruses and make them birth children for richer families.

In our world today, the supreme leader of Iran is a religious leader. He controls domestic and foreign policies, commands the Chief of Armed Forces, and exerts 'ideological and political control.'
Note: The Sons of Jacob Think Tanks are a group that originally devised the general plan for Gilead, including how they would take over the government and how they would re-order society.
With the help of the wings, which hide the Handmaid's face, they not only prevent them from seeing, but from being seen by other people.
The government attempts to act like the women are not even alive.

In our world today, more specifically Iran, women adhere to Sharia Law (moral/religious code).
Women can be denied some basic rights under Sharia Law.
A woman's testimony in court is worth half that of a man's.
Women may be required to cover themselves with either a hijab or burquah in public.
In Gilead, the theocratic government does not believe in any other type of religion. Any religion other than their own is marginalized and frowned upon. You are sent to the Wall to be executed and displayed to the rest of Gilead to show what could happen if you believe in a different religion.

In our world today: "Muslim militants from Boko Haram killed 31 Christians while they worshipped on Sunday. Rev. Caleb of the Christian Reformed Church of Christ called it a "planned genocide against Christians by Islamic insurgents."
Note: the Wall is a place where dissidents are executed and hung close to where people can see as a warning to the people of Gilead of the punishment for adopting another religion.
The setting of the novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead; a futuristic, male-dominated, theocratic society.

Several unstated natural disasters occurred, which caused the infertility of many women; those who were fertile, were forced to leave their lives behind and become Handmaid's.

Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid who was trying to escape to Canada but was caught, taken away from her family, and forced to become a Handmaid.
Thanks for watching and learning about Theocracy!
(Breuer, Anja.
"Biblical Influences on The Handmaid's Tale."
The Handmaid's Tale. 2003. Web. 31 May 2015.)
(Barnard, Anne. "ISIS Onslaught Engulfs Assyrian Christians as Militants Destroy Ancient Art." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 May 2015.)

"The Structure of Power in Iran." Frontline. PBS, n.d. Web. 31 May 2015.
Fukuyama, Francis. "Iran, Islam and the Rule of Law." Wall Street.
27 July 2009. Web. 31 May 2015.
Boland, Barbara. "Boko Haram Carries Out 'Planned Genocide' Against Christians
in Nigeria on Sunday." CNS News. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
*Examples are: Iran and Vatican City*
Video Example of "Rejection of Other Faith's"
A Christian man living in Nigeria was shot in the head by a member of Boko Haram because he did not denouce God and give into their religion.
Full transcript