The Role Of Women In Modern Society In Comparison To Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"

1571 words - 6 pages

Margaret Atwood's controversial dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, leaves the reader with the lingering question of "what if?". Set in the near future, what is known to be the United States, is overtaken by puritan conservative Christians, creating the Republic of Gilead. Assasinating the President and congress, this religious extremist movement suspended the constitution and took complete control over the government. Women in Gilead lost their rights, and served only one purpose; for reproduction. A large population of the women were infertile due to previous constant exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste, and leakages from chemical weapons. They were either labelled "Unwoman" and sent to "Colonies" to clean up toxic wastes, or be house servants; "Marthas". The small number which made up the fertile population were taken to camps where training to become handmaidens for the upper-class people took place. The women of Gilead were denied all basic human rights, and although the main focus of this novel is of what may occur in our future, The Handmaid's Tale is an extension of the patriarchal societies of our past, and of those which are of existence today.In the Republic of Gilead, the women were stripped entirely of their freedom and identity. Unlike some of the men, they loose the right to work outside the home, or even go out. Their only outing is for daily grocery shopping and mandatory attendance at public events. The women have no say in the choices of daily life, such as what to wear, or eat, who to be friends with, or the choice of sexual partners. Shall one be impregnated, she has no choice of having an abortion, nor the right to claim ownership of the child. The women have no real identities, for what they wore, and where they stood in society, was who they were. The handmaids were distinguished by their "fairytale figure in a red cloak" (Atwood 9), and served only for the purpose of reproduction. Some of the infertile women were kept in the house as servants, "Marthas", dressed in a "dull green, like a surgeon's gown" (Atwood 9). The Wives of the Commander's of the house were recognized by their blue wardrobes. Their main purpose was to raise the children the handmaids produced, and to maintain the domestic sphere. The ones outfitted in "striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimpy" (Atwood 27) were women of the poorer men, Econowives, and held the resposibilty of all three functions; a Martha, a Handmaid, and a Wife.A concept strongly present in the society of the Republic of Gilead is that of misogyny: the hatred of women. The jealousy is all centred towards the Handmaids by the infertile women of Gilead. The Wives envied the Handmaids due to the fact that, not only were they fertile but also because they stole away their husbands, the "Commanders". Many of the Wives were blunt with their feelings and reacted in such ways; "Stabbed her with a knitting needle, right in the belly.", and using "toilet...

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