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The Handmaid's Tale
Transcript of The Handmaid's Tale
Summary of Novel
The Status of Women in Gilead
"For officially sterile men no longer exist. In Gilead, there are only fruitful women and barren women." (Atwood 69)
Shuji & Tahkwa
Fertile - The Narrator has"viable ovaries," and that's what's kept her alive and out of danger.
Over thinker - Thinking of her passed life with her husband and daughter fill most of her time and often causes emotional Breakdown.
Thesis & Relations to the novel
Malala works to solve education rights for the women of Pakistan by giving out public speeches. Being uneducated was a common problem especially in the smaller villages of Pakistan. She was shot once and survived, but she insisted to gain rights for the women.
Offred uses flashbacks to fill us in on the details which lead up to this present.
This has the advantage, for her as a narrator of, having a double hindsight:
She can locate events of the past in contrast to circumstances in the present
She can fix the present in the context of these hindsights while moving the story along to its obvious conclusion
The Republic of Gilead is a theocratic military dictatorship formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States.
Due to declining fertility rates caused by pollution and radiation fertile women are parceled out to Commanders of the secret police as Handmaids.
The novel focuses on a handmaid by the name of "Offred" (Narrator). Offred became a handmaid after an attempt to escape with her daughter and husband from Gilead. They fail; her daughter is given away to a needy woman in the upper class, and Offred does not know whether her husband is alive or dead.
She is placed in the service of the General and his wife Serena Joy.
It Offred does not reproduce promptly Serena will send her away to the intoxicated countries.
Although Offred does not get pregnant she does develop an unusual relationship with the commander.
Serena is desperate for children allows Offred to sleep with the chauffeur.
Serena finds out what has happened between Offred and the commander and promises Offred trouble.
Not Reckless - She rejects even stealing a daffodil from Serena Joy's flower arrangement
Nondescriptive of herself - Allows her to represent every woman who's been forced into the position of Handmaid in this society.
In The Handmaid's Tale, nearly everyone's identity has been stripped away. Although the most powerful have more privileges than some of the others, everyone has been renamed and repositioned.
Women are grouped into classes (Handmaid, Wife, Martha, Econowife).
The body and its functions – especially the fertile female body – have become more important than personality, education, or mind.
This theme is highlighted by the fact that no character is represented by his or her real name.
"My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden. I tell myself it doesn't matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. "(Atwood 37)
Unidentified real name, 33 years of age, brown hair and stands five foot seven.
Survivor - This determination to survive makes her both cautious and yet willing, she takes a chance by trusting Nick, since he offers her a hope for an escape.
Need for Love - Unlike her mother who rejects male love, Offred welcomes it. Her affair with Nick can lead to a death penalty.
"My nakedness is strange to me already. [...] Did I really wear bathing suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs and back were on display, could be seen. Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it's shameful or immodest but because I don't want to see it. I don't want to look at something that determines me so completely." (Atwood 84)
The Narrator tries to dissociates herself; she doesn't want to remember something that defines her and brings memories from the past.
She "do[es]n't want to look at something that determines [her] so completely."
She has became a true handmaid that only sees herself as a mere container for her ovaries.
Gilead society prohibits any negative perception on men.
Women are to blame if the couple does not reproduce.
Society will accuse the women of infertility even if they know the truth.
Men have much more privileges and are of higher rank than women.
Gilead was formed in response to the dangerously low birthrates and its main goal was to control the rate of reproduction.
Women cannot vote, hold property or jobs, read, or do anything else that might allow them to become independent and come up with intelligent ways to overthrow their husband or state.
Women are treated based upon their ability to reproduce.
Those who are sterile are looked down upon and those who are fertile are treated nothing more than flesh that surrounds the central object (womb). The society seeks to deprive women of their individuality and tries to create a strict layout of what women can and cannot do.
There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they're called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can. (Atwood, 5)
The narrator describes every women's role.
Women are differentiated by the color difference in clothing.
The wives wear blue, the handmaids wear red and the Martha's wear green., their individuality has been stripped away.
Any form of individuality has to be taken away
Male faults are Blamed on the Female
Life in Gilead for both men and women but more for women is like prison they must follow strict rules, their language is monitored, every movement is also monitored by the eyes (spies working for the government). Even the smallest of error can mean death.
Men who are defined by their military rank and therefore by their profession, however, women are defined only by their gender role, as Wives, daughters, Handmaids, or Marthas. Enemies of the state like feminists are called “Unwomen,” placing them not only outside of society but outside of the human race. Blacks are called “Children of Ham,” and Jews “Sons of Jacob". These names are used to separate them from the rest of society.
Women are a “national resource,” Gilead likes to say, but they really mean that women’s ovaries and wombs are national resources.
Narrator and protagonist of the story.
Once a married women with a daughter now finds herself a handmaid to a general and his wife and must bear a child for them.
She is a thoughtful, reflective, sometimes passive. She does not accept the propaganda of the new regime and stubbornly retains her right to think for herself.
All signs of Feminism must be Cleared
Baofu, Peter . "The Story of Malala, and its Misuse for the Western Culture War." English pravda.ru. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/29-11-2013/126274-malala_stroy-0/>.
Quotations from Novel:
Atwood, Margaret. The handmaid's tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986. Print.
On October, 9th 2012 in a region known as Swat Valley, Pakistan 14 year old Malala rose to the oppression of extremists desperate for power.
Education was banned for all women and very few rights were given to them especially in the poorer regions of Pakistan.
Malala was an advocate and champion for women rights, she was targeted and shot in a school bus. Malala's story is not unique. Many girls had tries but failed to change the perception on women.
Much like Gilead's society were women are banned from their rights. Although Malala did get shot she survived and made her first public speech since her injury.
In many ways Malala and Offred are similar, they both do not accept the lifestyle they are living in and are both seeking to smell the scent of freedom.
In Atwood's science fiction tale of a dystopic future, the reader has entered into a time where regular activities and normal institutions have been unrecognized and seen as strange. One of the ways in which Atwood attracts the reader to the foreign environment is by paying close attention to the way she names the characters, their respective roles, and the places that they inhabit. By knowing the names and their significance, the reader can understand how the the characters represent certain desired and undesired social traits.
The Novel closes with an epilogue from 2195, after Gilead has fallen, written in the form of a lecture given by Professor Pieixoto.
He states the significance of Offred's story and tries to identify the narrator but fails.
He reveals that the story was actually recorded onto tapes, which he and another professor transcribed and edited into a single narrative.
The professor doesn't know how the narrator's story ended.
Similarities: Gender Difference, Anti-Women Suffrage
In doing so, the tale provides a plausible vision of feminism gone awry and patriarchy as expressed by religious and governmental totalitarianism.