Critical/Scholarly Analysis of Margaret The Handmaid’s Tale is an anti-utopian novel that was written by Margaret Atwood during the early 1980s in Alabama and West Berlin. The narrator is Offred, who is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. For most part of the narration, Offred gives readers a clear picture of her emotional state rather than the unraveling of events or actions…
However, judging from Offred’s subtle acts, one can conclude that she has neither conformed to nor accepted her role in the society. This is further backed by the fact that she eventually escapes the oppressive regime. Offred, the first person narrator gives her personal story concerning her life in the Republic of Gilead. She thus gains the readers’ sympathy in doing so. Readers naturally trust Offred’s words. Conventionally, first person narration and narratives are considered trustworthy. Though Offred’s tale is trustworthy, there is the need to contextualize it. From the novel, it is clear that Offred’s mother was a second wave feminist. She brought up her daughter as a single parent and was an activist. This means that she strongly fought for women’s safety and freedom to go anywhere. She also campaigned for women’s safety in the streets, unmolested by rapists or violence. Additionally, she condemned both the dangers and inequalities in the way women were treated (Wisker, 31). The issues ranged from education to economic and sexual rights. She emphasized on the role of pornography in depicting women as mere sexual objects. Therefore, she was strongly against pornography and consequently burned it and invited Offred, as a child to do the same. The novel thus portrays Offred’s mother as the energies of women in the 1980s that pushed for attainment of personal, political, and economic equality. The benefits of these efforts were reaped by Offred and her generation by ostensibly getting their own bank accounts, jobs, and equal rights. This also resulted to some degree of comfort and complacency. The members of that generation could fully enjoy their freedom and privacy. It thus appears that Offred’s mother was a strong woman who could not tolerate unequal treatment on the basis of gender (Atwood, 136). This is unlike Offred who appears to accept to be used as a sexual object or a vehicle in which the Commander and his wife can procreate. In this way, Offred’s worth is measured by her level of fertility and ability to bear kids. Gilead did not enjoy the benefits of equality for long since there emerged a political coup. Following the coup, a fundamentalist religious based regime took over. This regime was oppressive and hardly cared about human rights, especially with respect to women. Offred, “a two-legged womb” is treated as a valuable person but is deprived of her freedom and placed under the watch of a Commander (Cooke, 113). Her main role is to serve as a vehicle by which the Commander, and his older with, Serena Joy, who is sterile can procreate and ensure that the Republic of Gilead has a future. Handmaids were treated as though they were half prostitutes and half nuns (Cooke, 130). Therefore, by accepting the role of a handmaid, Offred appears to be weak and less powerful compared to her mother, who was a strong feminist. Moira is Offred’s more rebellious friend. She cannot bear control and incarceration under the strict gaze of the controlling aunts, particularly Aunt Lydia. Moira has more energy and is more lively compared to Offred. She seems to have more control of her life and is more independent in comparison to Offred. Therefore, one can easily conclude that she is a more critical character compared to ...
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