Atwood’s Dystopia “The Handmaid’s Tale”

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Is a story that tells us about this world and what it would be like if it was based on oppressed feminism. Since Gilead was built on oppressed feminism it would be considered a dystopia for most or all women. Offred who is the protagonist describes this dystopia that she lives in, where women are degraded and only valued by their bodies if they can produce an offspring. Offred show and expresses how she feels in multiple occasions where she hates this new society and the person she has to pretend to be but also wanted to be able to carry a child. This world that has been created by Atwood exposes how Gilead uses women and only uses them for certain things, which is to be able to produce, obey these political view, and live by the rules that they have been provided with. Since this was the world Offred lived in it explains within itself how the rules, lifestyle, the limitations on clothing, education and freedom oppressed women.

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It is a dystopia because there clearly is an issue on how women are treat and it needs to be called to action. In “The Handmaid’s Tale” it made it very obvious what women were used for and why. For decades women have been seen as objects for men, something for them to play with therefore men can be pleased and that’s what it’s like in the world of Gilead. Offred has to deal with thinking that all she is good for is to carry a child. She says “A return to traditional values. Waste not want not. I am not being waste (page 7) .” Offred is afraid that she will be useless to the world she living and but refuses to believe so because she knows she so much more than that and that she shouldn’t be degraded based on her physical ability to being able to produce. This just shows how women are brainwashed to believe that the only thing they’re good for is to have a baby and this also shows how they are oppressed due to “manpower”. The oppression of women stems largely from men’s desire for power and control. For example throughout history, men were and still are driven by power to try to take-over and dominate other groups or nations, also to oppress other classes or groups in their own society which, drives them to dominate and oppress women as well. Women are degraded in so many ways in Gilead that expresses their value to them.

Women are grouped by colors that determine whether their bodie “should” or “shouldn’t” be valued. For example she said “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping(page ).” Before offred was in charge of her own body and saw herself as something beautiful; now, she is no longer important and her body is just transparent, the only part of her body that has importance is this “central object,” which is her womb. Offred reflection’s show how she has became apart of one’s nature by learning and experiencing how Gilead’s treats their women, not as individuals but as objects. Women are just a substances and the way the the method of human communication is used in the novel dehumanizes women.

Even offred says it herself “I’m just a cloud around a central object…which is hard and more real than I am”. Body Image is another way to oppress women because the way women are view in Gilead teaches women not to love themself or acknowledge that they are human but, just a cloud floating around with a womb. If that womb can not carry a child then they are worthless and useless to the life and future of Gilead. Gilead not only strips away self worth, identity and individuality from women but also education, affections, and freedom. Offred goes back and forth from her past to the present and mentions how different it was. In her past life women we able to go get and education, have jobs, money of their own and opinions but now that’s long gone. Offred tries to read when ever she can even if it just a word. She see a cushion with word on it. “ There’s a hard little cushion on it, with a petit point cover: FAITH, in square print… I can spend minutes, ten minutes, running my eyes over the print: FAITH (page 57)”. Gilead Completely restricts women from any form of education therefore, any attempt that give her a chance to read, write or spell she is going for it. Another example is when saw her mom in a clip of what, somewhat looked like a revolution. “First come the title and some names, blacked out on the film…

The camera pans up and we see writing, in paint, on what must have been a bedsheet: TAKE BACK THE NIGHT. This hasn’t been blacked out, even though we aren’t supposed to be reading (page 119).” But most of words in films are blacked out, street sign, chore list, grocery store are just pictures.This is just another example of how women have been oppressed by Gilead. Gilead seeks to silence women and denies them control over their own lives. The less choice and education people get, the less they ask questions, the less they connect the issues, and the chance to rebel. Gilead sure did a good job in making people forget what it was like to have a life when you have a choice. Sooner or later the life of Gilead become what most women were used too. Not offered though, she held onto the past so hard that it gave her hope that a different way of life is possible and it also gave her a way to escape to world of Gilead. Throughout the novel Offred is reminded that freedom is no longer something she has but something that is giving to her with crucial limitation.

Freedom is strip aways from women and in all form. Strip from education, love, and their own bodies. Gilead fears an educated women. Offred is a smart women and it bothers her that she can’t have that education. “ Our biggest mistake was teaching them to read. We won’t do that again (page 307)”. This example shows how women once lived oppressed and in a dystopia before therefore, anything that women can use to their advantage must be taken. Offred’s mother was apart of a women’s right movement before which got women rights. “ I see my mother… she’s in a group of oher women, dressed in the same fashion; she’s holding a stick, no, it’s part of a banner (page 119)”. Offred’s mother was a staunch second-wave feminist and women’s rights activist before Gilead came to be. Women were oppressed before anyways that Offred mother protested and rallied for women’s right and freedom.    Offred’s mother raised her alone and try to bring up up with the same values she had so offred saw women as oppressed and would fight for her rights.

Although her mother was in a movement for women right it was not to blame for the coup that led to Gilead. The reason why is because even before Gilead came to be women were already oppressed as explained in the novel when offred saw her mom the feminist movement “Take back the night”. I believe the movement was to help prevent a world like Gilead from happening, I believe offred’s mother was trying to keep her daughter awake although it may seem like women are equal in offred and her mother knows otherwise. Women throughout history were oppressed and still are although things do not change overnight people know that at any moment in any time something could happen.

Women had for fight for their right of their bodies, to vote and to be treated equal. I am sure sinc women were able to get an education, have a job, and choice before Gilead, women like Offred’s mother knows her history and knows the difference between right and wrong which led her and a whole bunch of other women to fight back for their rights. All it takes is one person to stand up and say something which was probably why Gilead said their biggest mistake was giving them access to education. This movement was more of a statement not a danger. A movement can shows what can be when people gather together to make a change for the better of a group or nation. A movement can show people that whatever was done to oppress a group can be Un-done social change. “ They provide a way of social change from the bottom within nations.” I feel that Atwood is supporting such action and issuing a call to action because she is a feminist herself.

Like mention before there is a history in women oppression and abuse but there came a time where women had enough and fought back. They fought back for their right and respect from society. In the novel It may seem like women are equal after the second wave of feminism when offred mother was apart of a movement but it is not. We all know that it is going to be a process to move away from history and see life in a different way, women were protest then and are still protesting now. The novel brings light to our reality although it is fiction it shows issues that still are occuring in our world today. Not only does Atwood reality history and the present to her novel but what can still be a issue in the possible future

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Atwood’s Dystopia “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (2022, Sep 09). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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