Posted: October 17th, 2013
The Handmaids Tale
In “The Handmaids Tale” by Atwood Margaret 1986, the narrator by the name, Offred narrates of the ordeals that took place in the establishment of Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship that takes away all women rights. Offred narrates of her daily experiences in the Gilead state that has replaced United States. The Gilead has taken all women rights, denying them a chance to read and write or even receive education. The only education offered is the teaching about the new laws. A situation exists in Gilead, where low birth rates have hit the state caused by nuclear chemicals and other toxic materials as well as use of contraceptives, which has now been banned (Atwood 3). Thus, handmaids are taken to rich families where they are supposed to bear children for the rich couples. This narrative although written in 1986, it depicts the current issues of environmental degradation and the many health conditions as well as maternal issues to dangerous toxins that people continue to use daily.
From the narration, it seems that the physical world of Gilead has been degraded by human activities. Some of the causes include wars that have used nuclear energy, environmental degradation due to toxic wastes and among other degradations (Atwood 4). Most of these environmental degrading activities are normal tendencies in the current world that people have to deal with. This can be evidenced by the fact that the birth rate has reduced from the effects of the conditions brought about by the toxic materials. This is also happening in the current world. This was the actual reason for imposing the rules on women in order to try to reverse some of the damage caused by the degradation of the physical world.
In this state, Gilead, the solution sought was totalitarianism where women were denied their maternal rights such as use of contraceptives and the right to abortion. This would ensure that women did not avoid pregnancy as well as terminate it in order to increase the birthrate. To affirm these laws, the Gilead law uses the biblical book of Genesis word for word, as it is. For instance, the fundamental idea of this state is making babies, adopted from Genesis 30: 1-3. This turns women in objects of making babies as genesis suggests, filling the earth. For this reason, women are denied rights of abortion or controlling birth, while many are taken as handmaids for the sole purpose of bearing children for the elite couples. Additionally, they are denied other rights such as reading, voting and owning property to ensure their dependence on men. The religion is used by the Gilead to keep their rule intact, where no body has a right to any other religion except the one supported by the authority (Atwood 20).
Moreover, to keep order within the Gilead republic, women and men are designated into several categories. The first category under which all women fall is that they are inferior to men, and should serve as sub servants to their men. The other category is of those who are not white, where they are put in the colonies. For women not married or had affairs with married men were turned into handmaids to bear children for the rich couples, while others were put a prostitutes. On the other hand, men were categorized according to their wealth, and those that were not white put in the colonies. It is surprising that women accept these conditions. One of the reasons is for their safety since failure to follow the law would call for severe punishment. This leaves them no choice except to comply with the set laws to avoid harsh punishments. For instance, one of the handmaids, Ofglen commits suicide to avoid the punishment that could have followed from the police.
It can be realized that Gilead state is solely made for ensuring to increase the birthrate through giving women no choice except to submit to the strictures. Women cannot own anything, vote or even have a right to their own bodies. Their bodies are made the objects of fulfilling political agenda, which was increasing the birthrate. This can be illustrated by the fact that the unmarried women are turned into handmaids where they are supposed to have impersonal sex to produce babies for their masters.
Atwood Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Ney York, N.Y: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1986. Print.
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