"How Does Margaret Atwood Portray The Role Of Women In The Republic Of Gilead?"

1636 words - 7 pages

"How does Margaret Atwood portray the role of women in the Republic of Gilead?"The Republic of Gilead allows Offred only one function: to reproduce. She has a choice, this or death. Through 'The Handmaid's Tale' Margaret Atwood conjures up a terrifying image of a society that has completely reversed all its ideologies and principles. Setting it in America, the country often seen as the pinnacle of all things 'Western' and modern, shocks us due to the complete contrast. Women are completely suppressed by men and their position in society is completely determined by the status of their husband and their fertility.Women are strictly categorised in Gilead, they are Handmaids, Wives, Marthas, ...view middle of the document...

Now, in this new society, she plays the role of a 'two-legged womb,' trying to conceive a child and being moved from family to family until she succeeds.She has no freedom whatsoever and is completely at the mercy of the family with which she is staying. This is even shown in her name, Offred, composed of the possessive preposition 'Of' and the name of the Commander with which she is staying, 'Fred'. She goes for a walk each day at a set time, has baths at set times, rests at set times and eats at set times. She is not allowed to leave the house without he face covered by a veil. Offred has no control over her life at all, which is a particularly disturbing thought, especially to women in today's society, where making decisions is a part of everyday life. To be without this simple independence sounds terrifying. As Atwood set up a pre-Gilead society, which I can all relate to, as it is so similar to ours, we can easily put ourselves in Offred's place and examine how we would feel in her circumstances, which increases my empathy with her.Offred now lives in a society which we find completely alien. Its most basic values are completely different to what we are used to. This is neatly summed up when one of the Aunts tells the Handmaids; "In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from." They try to tell women that just because they were used to something does not necessarily mean it was better and that this new society is protecting them for their own good. It is surprising to what extent this brainwashing works, even Offred is surprised when she sees Japanese women, visiting Gilead on holiday, in 'Western' dress; "Their heads are uncovered and their hair too is exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality?.They seem undressed, it has taken so little time to change our minds." In this Atwood is making the point that humans adapt very easily to situations and that what we see as the values held by our society can be so easily crushed. It serves as a warning to today's society to hold fast to what it believes in.Sex is a chore for women; pleasurable sex would be seen as "symptom of frivolity?.superfluous distractions for the light-minded." It is a duty which must be endured if Offred wishes to survive. She manages to completely detach herself from the act, but at the same time realises how important it is to her. Handmaids are only allowed a certain number of years in which to get pregnant or they are sent to the colonies to die of radiation exposure. If Offred does not get pregnant in the next two years this will be her fate. She has a desperate desire to be pregnant, driven by her strong survival instinct, making it almost terrifying as it is something she has so little control over. She cannot merely decide to get pregnant; therefore her body begins to play a massive role in her life. This is shown when she says " I avoid looking at my body?.. I don't want to look at something that determines me so completely." To be...

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