Margaret Atwood is the woman behind the novel 'The Handmaid's Tale'. A Canadian, she first brought this book into the limelight in 1986. She uses imaginative female characters to expose problems that women underwent when the United States is held at ransom upon the elimination of the then authority by theocratic soldiers (Mary 13). The book revolves around one Offred who is the main character with the author using such terms as 'handmaid', 'angel' among others in a symbolic way to communicate her thematic concerns in political and social aspect. The main character is made to use a literary device of flashback in narrating her experiences. Her ordeals are made from the past although the information is being reported in the present (Mary 15). This article attempts to show how the author uses the historical events to caution on the possible consequences of contemporary trends. It links the literary event to the historical event and discusses why the events seem outrageous or unbelievable in the context of the book and indeed why the grounding of these events is facts. It will also attempt to connect what happened with the current issues.
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The author begins by showing how women are put on hold and they are not allowed to interact. They are heavily guarded by soldiers and they are allowed to talk but only in low tones. Offred is quick to note that slowly by slowly the society is going back to the old traditions (Margaret 23). They are embracing the theocratic system where the authority is integrated with the religion in question. People are subjected to only one denomination and the Gilead society borrows a lot from the biblical context. This close relation of the society to religion is only meant to caution on what is to happen later in the book (Margaret 25). Like Offred observes, women are put in oppression and this is one of the major thematic concerns; political oppression of females. This is done in the name of God. Women are not entitled to any right and the only way out is for them to use sexual attraction to keep them going. This acts as a warning of yet more bad things to come as women are forbidden to read and write. Indeed they are going back to old ways (Margret 27).
In this book, the author seems to warn on some of the archaic laws which hit the society so badly. For instance, the guards are not allowed to have sex or even admire women. They have to seek an approval of the state to get themselves wives (Margaret 35). The young security personnel are deprived of their rights and the authority forbids any association with something likely to suggest. The author says that they hope against hope to turn into angels and probably that's the only way they can secure fiancées. This serves as a warning of what happens later. Some security men and a clergy are killed due to involvement in sodomy. This proves what the end result is when people are forced to live like animals (Margaret 38).
When the authority takes away her baby, Offred is haunted by the memories of this sad event everyday and throughout the book. This is used by the author to caution on the injustices that were being meted on women. The event had not taken place many years back yet any time it comes to her mind it left her with excruciating pain in her heart. She says that those in power injected her to brain wash her (Melanie 101). This haunts her so much that she keeps hoping it was not real. Her life is just unbearable. One Serena was always against the rights of fellow women but she never saw the caution of doing all that. Her life is a total nightmare later when she realizes that this also affects her badly as the husband does not have time for her. If only she could have heeded to the caution things would have been different (Melanie 103).
In the novel, it seems strange that commanders are supposed to sleep with their handmaids so as to bear children for them. At one time, Offred went to see the doctor to be tested whether she was pregnant. After the tests are carried o her, she is said not be pregnant. The doctor pleads to take her to bed but she declines the offer (Margaret 113). The old men are said to be sterile but the Gilead system does not recognize men as such. This is outrageous and unbelievable. This clearly satirizes the beliefs of the society. The author cautions on these deprivation of sexual passion when the doctor expresses his desire to take a woman to bed. The laws forces people to do the prohibited knowing very well the consequences (Margaret 116). This is a warning to the authority that archaic laws and beliefs can lead to people doing things underground. The fact here is, though Gilead does not believe men can be infertile, this is nature and cannot be denied. This further cautions that when somebody is subjected to a lot of oppression one becomes almost used and sees no need to change his or her life. This is evident when Offred chooses not to be helped by the doctor to run away (Margret 118).
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The injustices meted on the women in the contemporary society come with a heavy price to pay. It in most cases lead to loneliness and one lives like a malignant beast in total isolation. Being a concubine of the commander, Offred is not allowed to meet with her comrades and people close to her (Malcom 55). She is controlled like a puppet on a string and his results to her recalling all that has happened to her previously in the past. This kind of torture leads to a woman snatching her daughter as she was in dire need of having a child she can call her own. This is used by the author to warn on the impacts of depriving people their conjugal rights.
In a society where people are not allowed to have sex, the author warns, the likelihood of the worst happening is very high. In this society, the commander seems to enjoy all women and he sleeps with them just to make them pregnant. The women don't seem to enjoy a single bit of it (Coral 76). As a result, many women fall victims of rape by men who are sexually starved. One Janine confesses that she fell a victim of this when she was only fourteen years of age. The end result is that women no longer value their bodies as a tool of giving them pleasure. It is only meant for giving birth and nothing else. It is outrageous how Gilead women are turned against fellow women. It is expected that when Janice opens up, it will act as a relive of the beastly act which was meted her. This is far from happening as the blame is shifted on her and she is told that it was a punishment from God (Coral 78).
The contemporary trend of oppressing women in Gilead society seems to have a very big impact on them. Offred at any given time keeps remembering her daughter, her biological mother, her husband and a long time friend. Although the images of her mum keep appearing quite often in her mind it clearly indicates that she is dire need of a family (Malcom 78). The recalling of her child is symbolic if somebody who would like to have a child. The images of her husband Luke is a clearly indication that she misses romance. Finally, the remembering of her long time friend shows somebody who would like to have a friend she can trust and share her secrets with. This is used by the author to show that, in a society where women are not allowed to be themselves it completely changes their lives to something bad (Malcom 88).
The overthrowing of the government comes with the consequences. The state is taken over by Gilead and one is required to have an identity card to walk around. Printed money was no longer being used and one had to posses a computer card to access the bank account. On the taking over of the government all the money that belonged to women is taken by their husbands (Coral 67). The coming of new law cautioned that women were not allowed to work and this meant they had to be sacked. On the same note no woman was required to own any asset of any kind. The chaoses are used by the author to warn on the dangers of having unrest and the effects they hand on the lives of women (Coral 78). This and so many other incidences indicate outrageous behavior by the political events and cautions on the society on some of the beliefs we strongly hold onto.
To conclude, I must admit that some these cases are very rampant in the contemporary society. Sodomy and cases of lesbianism have been witnessed in this book. These are still there in many prisons and out there. Women in our society, just like in Gilead fraternity are still being despised although to some extent this is not rampant as such. Cases of rape are the most unfortunate incidences that we have to put up with in today's society. Many women, especially the aged and teenagers are the most targeted. These are just a few issues that affect the society today that the author have highlighted.
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