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The Handmaid's Tale
Transcript of The Handmaid's Tale
In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the oppression of women in a society run by a theocratic government is demonstrated through the use of various symbols and motifs. They help to outline the severe oppression women face and the control they are under.
By: Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale is the story of Offred, a Handmaid in Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America
Due to dangerously low birth rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples
In Gilead, women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships
As Offred tells the story of her daily life, she frequently slips into flashbacks from her old life, they help the reader reconstruct the events leading up to the beginning of the novel
The novel follows her acts of rebellion in the controlled state in which she lives
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's
Tale. Toronto: O.W. Toad Ltd., 2006. Print.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The
Handmaid's Tale Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 23 Jul. 2013.
Motif: Rape and Sexual violence
Women are claimed to be better protected in Gilead--treated with respect and kept safe from violence
However, sexual violence is institutionalized with clubs that provide Commanders with access to a supply of prostitutes
The Ceremony is when a Handmaid is forced to fill her obligation to have sex with her Commander
In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the oppression of women in a theocratic society is demonstrated through the use of symbols and motifs. It outlines the state of control and dehumanization the women face.
Motif: Religion and Politics
Gilead is a theocracy
Official vocabulary incorporates regions terms and biblical references
Religious terminology is used to describe people, ranks, businesses and is a reminder that the founders of Gilead insist they act on the authority of the bible itself
Symbol: The Handmaid's Red
Uniforms worn by the Handmaid's are red
They symbolize fertility; the castes primary function
Red is a symbol of the menstrual cycle and of childbirth
It is also the color of sexual sin, as the Handmaid's are committing adultery with the married Commanders
Symbol: The Eyes
The Eyes of God are Gilead's secret police
Their name and symbol (the winged eye) symbolize eternal watchfulness
Anyone could be an Eye, it symbolizes always being watched by God himself
Considered to be a symbol of beauty and fertility
They are given attention as object capable of blooming and growing when few women can
They are the part of the part with the reproductive organs
They act as a reminder of fertility
I go out by the back door, into the garden, which is large and tidy: a lawn in the middle, a willow, weeping catkins; around the edges, the flower borders, in which the daffodils are now fading and the tulips are opening their cups, spilling out colour. The tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem, as if they had been cut and are beginning to heal there.
It's Janine, telling about how she was gang-raped at fourteen and had an abortion. She told the same story last week. She seemed almost proud of it, while she was telling. It may not even be true. At Testifying, it's safer to make things up than to say you have nothing to reveal.
But whose fault was it? Aunt Helena says,
holding up one plump finger.
Her fault, her fault, her fault, we chant in
who led them on? Aunt Helena beams, pleased with us.
She did. She did. She did.
Why did God allow such a horrible thing to happen?
Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson.
Last week, Janine burst into tears. Aunt Helena made her kneel at the front of the classroom, hands behind her back, where we could all see her, her red face and dripping nose...She looked disgusting: weak, squirmy, blotchy, pink, like a newborn mouse...For a moment, even though we knew what was being done to her, we despised her.
Crybaby. Crybaby. Crybaby.
We meant it, which was the bad part.
It was my fault, she says. It was my own fault. I led them on. I deserved the pain.
The new Gilead regime moved quickly to take away women's financial independence
The society is founded on views of "returning to traditional values" and gender roles
In a single day, Offred is fired from her job at the library and is denied access to her bank account
New legislation bans women from holding jobs and assets
Ownership of their belongings was given to their closest male relative
Their names are taken away from them and replaced with "of" and the name of their commander
Officially, it is no longer possible for me to be "sterile", in Gilead it is women who are either fruitful or barren
Offred used to think of her body as an instrument of pleasure/transportation
Now her body is defined as nothing more than a uterus
The only purpose of women is to reproduce
They are not allowed to hold jobs or relationships
Gilead made their own interpretation of the bible and used it to justify what they do to women
At the Ceremony the Commander uses the story of Rachel and Leah