Free Essay

Feminism in the Handmaid’s Tale

In: Novels

Submitted By Msbball93
Words 951
Pages 4
Topic 2: Feminism in the 1980s thought that a woman’s culture and society would be one marked by pure sisterhood and equality. Discuss The Handmaid’s Tale as an exploration of the ideas of feminism, the treatment of women, and the control of women’s bodies.
Feminism in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Women have been treated very poorly through the years and in the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale women have no control of their bodies, the treatment they get from other is terrible and there is no freedom. Offred the main character is presented in the novel has a handmaid who’s only propose in life is to have a baby with the commander. She lives in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian state that has replaced the United States of America. She like other women have no freedom and are only allowed to go for shopping trip, but still someone is always watching. Therefore in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the women have limited rights, limited freedom and limited control of their bodies.

The women in Gilead have no rights and have to listen to the rules or the consequences result in death, getting send to the colonies or become a prostitute at Jezebel’s. They don’t really have a choice they can be handmaids to the commander and his wife or become a prostitute at Jezebel’s, but it’s not really a choice thy only have two options. The women in Gilead have to do play their roles in the society and not complain about it. The roles include: Handmaids, Marthas, Econowives and the wives of the commander. Even in these society women don’t stick together there aren’t many friendships being made and the women are all carry jealously with them, “The voice behind me was right. She’s come here to display herself. She’s growing, rosy, she’s enjoying every minute of this” (33). Offed and all the other handmaids are jealous of this pregnant handmaid at the market. The women have no rights and no power they are presented as objects and have to listen to the male or whoever is higher in society. The only options that exist for the women were to play their roles, be sent to the colonies, become prostitute at Jezebel’s or commit suicide.

Freedom is mentioned in the novel several times and it can be considered as an important issue in the novel. “There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it” (31). In Gilead the women are given freedom from dangerous stranger and sexist. They are protected but they don’t have the freedom to do whatever they want. The handmaids have to walk in pairs whenever they went somewhere, which was usually to the market to get food, “Now we walk along the same street, in red pairs, and no man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us. No one whistles” (31). Offred has no freedom and no choice on what she could and couldn’t wear and she isn’t allowed to wear anything on her face like lotion. The wives won’t allow the handmaids to look better than they look. The handmaids wear red dresses and the wives were blue dresses. The women at Jezebel’s are considered to have more freedom, “Moira had power now, she’d been set loose, she’d set herself loose. She was now a loose woman” (167). Moira is believed to be a loose woman because she escapes from the red center and works at Jezebel’s. At Jezebel’s the rules are different and the women are more”free” compared to the women living at the red center and the aunts are less strict at Jezebel’s about the rules. So women’s freedoms are limited in Gilead and they have the freedom from but not the freedom to.

Lastly, the women have very less control of their bodies in Gilead especially the handmaids. The handmaids are reserved for the commanders and they are seen as their property. For example, the name Offred meets of Fred which is the commander’s name. The women have no control of their bodies and they have to have sex with who they are given too. The only purpose of them is to make babies with the commander so that he and his wife can have a child. If a handmaid is unable to get pregnant, they are sterile, they are sent to the colonies. The women’s bodies are used as objects and are only important because of their womb. Offred states “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” (91). She is thinking about how she used to think of her body to how she sees it now. Before her body was an instrument an extension of her self and now it no longer matters. Her body is being used for only to get pregnant and have a child. Thus women had no control of their bodies they had to do what they were told.

In conclusion, The Handmaid’s Tale deals with the issue of women’s right, their freedoms and the control of their bodies. Offred had no control of her body and she had no freedom she was like a puppet. She was told to do something and it had to been done and if it wasn’t then you were sent to the colonies or sent to Jezebel’s. The only control the women had was the choice to commit suicide. They are trapped in this society and there’s no way out.…...

Similar Documents

Premium Essay


...Feminism in Bangladesh: Establishing equal rights between men & women in young generation. SADMAN ANIS Students University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh ABSTRACT This is basically exploratory study and was conducted at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh & United International University, Dhanmondi,Dhaka, Bangladesh over a period of 10 days started from 1st December, 2012 to 10th December, 2010. The main objective of this study is to describe what the condition of feminism in Bangladesh and what is the thinking of our varsity girl about feminism. Total 21 respondents were selected based on age class of 18-22. Feminism is a belief in the right of women to have political, social, and economic equality with men. It is a discourse that involves various movements, theories, and philosophies which are concerned with the issue of gender difference, advocate equality for women, and campaign for women’s rights and interests. According to some, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements. It is manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism. Although feminism has emerged in nineteenth in the world, it is yet unknown to women of our country. The concept of feminism in Bangladesh......

Words: 6113 - Pages: 25

Premium Essay


...Feminism refers to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing greater rights, legal protection for women, and or women's liberation. It includes some of the sociological theories and philosophies concerned with issues of gender difference. Nancy Cott defines feminism as the belief in the importance of gender equality, invalidating the idea of gender hierarchy as a socially constructed concept. Feminism has earned itself a bad reputation, but it never undermined gender differences that exist between males and females. A man can never be as good a mother as a female can. Similarly, a woman can never be as good a father as a male can. While accepting these anatomical and physiological differences between the two genders, feminism seeks for both genders to be equally respected. They are both human and as a species, humans cannot progress without either one of them. Maggie Humm and Rebecca Walker divide the history of feminism into three waves. The first wave transpired in the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, the second occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. In each wave of the movement, though men have taken part in significant responses to feminism, the relationship between men and feminism has been complex. Historically, a number of men have engaged with feminism. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham demanded equal rights for women in the eighteenth century. In 1866, philosopher John Stuart Mill presented a......

Words: 1249 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

To What Extent Does the Handmaid’s Tale Present the Future as a Feminine Dystopia?

...To what extent does The Handmaid’s Tale present the future as a feminine dystopia? A feminine dystopia imagines a world gone terribly wrong, exploring the most extreme possible consequences of current society’s problems. In a feminine dystopia, the inequality of society or oppression of women is exaggerated or intensified to highlight the need for change in contemporary society. The Handmaid’s Tale presents the future as this in many ways. Chapter 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale presents the future as a feminine dystopia. Religion is brought up as Gilead is seen to be trying to purify the values of women, for example Offred is only allowed a single bed, the words “nothing takes place in the bed but sleep; or no sleep” highlight the fact that a bed is only for sleeping, to purify her. The reference to nunneries also suggests there is religion involved in Gilead, Offred states that “time here is measured by bells, as once in nunneries. As in nunneries too, there are few mirrors” this suggests sexual contact for the Handmaids, or anyone, is forbidden, and the use of the word “once” suggests that Offred is like a nun, or feels like a nun, out of a nunnery and in a house. Also in chapter 2, the role of the Handmaids is introduced; we learn they are needed for something very important, as they are not allowed to attempt to kill themselves as it is said that “they’ve removed anything you could tie a rope to.” Also Offred says “I am not being wasted.” This shows that the Handmaids are......

Words: 1501 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Role of Offred's Room in a Handmaid's Tale

...In the novel A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood uses different descriptions of Offred’s room to illustrate the government’s control over her and her role in the society. She uses the room to allude to her situation almost because she is unable to explicitly state her discontent with her current conditions. Firstly, the author uses many similes, symbols and short sentence structures to emphasise the oppression and the totality of the control that the government has over Offred. She uses different objects in the room to symbolise Offred’s situation. While exploring her room, the narrator notices that “on the white ceiling… [there is] a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a face where the eye has been taken out.” (9) She also finds that “[the window] only opens partly” (9). The author uses the simile which compares the ceiling to a face without eyes, a result of the chandelier having been violently removed, to mirror how Offred is forced to be “blind” to the world. The government forces handmaids to wear wings around their face to prevent them from seeing and being seen. Offred and other handmaids thus cannot communicate and familiarise themselves with the world. They are powerless because they have no knowledge of the world; they cannot defend themselves against an unknown entity. The narrator uses this simile to imply that she is forced into being oblivious to her surroundings. Similarly, the author uses the window in Offred’s room as a symbol for her......

Words: 1488 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

How Far Do You Agree with the View ‘That Women Do Not Possess Innate Maternal Desires’? Compare and Contrast the Presentation of Motherhood in Top Girls with Atwood’s Presentation of Motherhood in the Handmaid’s Tale

...How far do you agree with the view ‘that women do not possess innate maternal desires’? Compare and contrast the presentation of motherhood in Top Girls with Atwood’s presentation of motherhood in The Handmaid’s Tale It could be argued that women possess innate maternal desires, however some would argue that women are socialised by their environment to be maternal. Churchill’s feminist play ‘Top Girls’ explores the idea of natural maternal instincts through characters such as Joyce and historical figures Lady Nijo and Patient Griselda. ‘Top Girls’ is set during Thatcher’s government and explores the role of motherhood, with an all female cast Churchill uses theatre of alienation and characterisation to constantly keep the audience aware that the play is not realistic, this technique is done purposely so the audience focus less on the plot and more on the political and social issues. Similar to the play, feminist author Atwood explores ideas of motherhood and how women treat each other within society through her cautionary tale; The Handmaid’s Tale, the fictive autobiographic novel presents characters such as Offred, Ofwarren and Serena Joy who all share problems with maternal identity. Most of the women presented in the texts have a desire to be a mother yet the societies they live within prevent them from successfully realising this desire. Top Girls is set in 1979 at the end of the decade and the beginning of Thatcher’s tenure. Marlene is representative of all of......

Words: 1769 - Pages: 8

Free Essay

Handmaid's Tale

...In mind I kept asking if this was going to be my end or new beginning. The two men entered the van, closing the double doors. I have no way of knowing where we were going or who these people were. They were dressed in all black with dark shades covering their eyes. One had a scar from the eyebrow down to his cheek in a diagonal line. I could feel the van turning onto the freeway by the velocity of the van. I started to have my suspicions if these people are what nick said they were or will they will turn out to be “The Eyes”. I look at one of them across from me; he looked back. We’re taking you to the eyes headquarters; you’re assigned a room number when we get there. He says. Despite the fear I was in, I nodded. Nick lied to me; these people weren’t Mayday, their “The Eyes”. Why would nick do this? This is something I will never know, it’s too late to do anything about it. After what seems to be two hours the van finally comes to a stop. I was expecting the worse to come. The double doors open, they take me by the elbows once again to help me out, it seemed to be around dawn time. There were about five buildings labeled with numbers. They lead me to building number two; there were other handmaids that look like they were captured by the eye. Entering the building I felt anxiety, I questioned myself what was going to happen to me? Does this mean I go straight to the colonies? Am I going to be tortured? Instead they put me in a waiting room for now. Minutes later a woman......

Words: 537 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Feminism and Fairy Tales

...Fairy tales and Feminism In Feminism and Fairy Tales, by Karen E. Rowe, she asserts “popular folktales” have “shaped our romantic expectations” and “illuminate psychic ambiguities which often confound contemporary women.” She believes that “Portrayals of adolescent waiting and dreaming, patterns of double enchantment, and romanticizations of marriage contribute to the potency of fairy tales” make “many readers discount obvious fantasy elements and fall prey to more subtle paradigms through identification with the heroine.” As a result, Karen Role contends that “subconsciously women may transfer from fairy tales into real life cultural norms which exalt passivity, dependency, and self-sacrifice as a female’s cardinal virtues suggest that culture’s very survival depends upon a woman’s acceptance of roles which relegate her to motherhood and domesticity.” It is undeniable that numerous folk tales implant male chauvinism into women’s mind and thus convey an idea that woman should obey to and depend on men. However; Rowe neglects the aspect that many other folk tales, on the contrary, disclose the evil and vulnerable sides of man and marriage and thus encourages women to rely on their own intelligence and courage other than subordinating to man. Fairy tales Beauty and Beast and Fowler’s Fowl challenges Rowe’s thesis to some extent and exemplifies that some fairy tales motivate women to be intelligent and courageous and to challenge the patriarchy. In the fairy tale Beauty and......

Words: 1237 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay


...How Relevant Feminism Actually Is Salah Eddine Youssef Kadadou American University of Sharjah How Relevant Feminism Actually Is When looking at any population, the simplest way to start categorizing organisms of any species is according to sex; male or female. If you disregard the biological and physiological differences, how would you tell them apart? Amongst animals, males and females have different roles. A lioness for example does most of the work while the lion only serves as the protector in case of predators. This difference in roles is seen throughout the animal kingdom with the exception of humans. As humans, we have decided that both men and women should have the same roles in society with regards to everything, or at least this is what feminism preaches, or does it? Feminism is a tricky matter to discuss because if you do not know how this movement started, you would look at modern day feminism and instantly be put off by what you see. Webster defines feminism as: 1.: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, 2.: organized activity in support of women's rights and interests. The original purpose or goal of feminism was to present women with the same opportunities and rights that men had and as hard as it is to believe, it still is. Therefore, if this is truly still the case, then feminism is still relevant even in modern day societies. On the one hand, feminism is still widely recognized as a movement with true......

Words: 1738 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Totalitarianism’s Role in the Handmaid’s Tale

...rebellion would never take hold. It worked to a great deal of extent. But some people like Moira did not accept the ideology and could not be controlled. Though the government dealt with these people, other people escaped punishment because the laws they had broken were somewhat insignificant or they held some power. In this case the government has failed in preventing a rebellion. Works Cited Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print. Goldblatt, Patricia. "Reconstructing Margaret Atwood's Protagonists." World Literature Today 73.2 (1999), 275-82. Martin, Alison. “A European Initiative: Irigaray, Marx, and Citizenship.” Hypatia. 19.3 (2004): 20-37. EBSCOHost. Web. 26 Oct. 2009. Rubin, Gayle. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the political economy of sex in Feminist Framework.” Toward an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna Reiter. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1968. 157-416. Print. Stillman, Peter G., and Anne S. Johnson. "Identity, Complicity, and Resistance in The Handmaid's Tale." Utopian Studies 5.2 (1994): 70-86. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. ....

Words: 1512 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

The Handmaids Tale

...The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is set in the republic of Gilead which has a highly structured hierarchy and a strict set of rules. The story is narrated by a young handmaid named Offred. Atwood says, “that the novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination.” Which is exactly what the novel serves as when it makes us criticise and reflect on the cracks in our society such as the totalitarian regimes that still reign today, gender inequality and the brutality of people higher up in society. In Gilead there is an obvious totalitarian regime and through the narrative of Offred, Atwood gives us a clear idea of her opinion on that. Offred was once a happily married woman with a daughter but she has now been caught up in the new Gilead totalitarian regime which has taken all that away from her and turned her into a handmaid whose only purpose is to bear children for her commander. The society is so strict that Offred has basically been reduced to a childlike state, she can’t pick what she wears, eats or says, she isn’t allowed basic necessities like moisturiser and she can’t even go to the bathroom unsupervised. The Gilead regime has taken away all of her personal freedom. Societies like these make us reflect on those in our own world such as the situation in North Korea. North Korea is run by a totalitarian regime, it is so strict on the people and they are in a similar......

Words: 909 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Handmaid's Tale Essay

...Sarah Fisher MSN News Pope’s immigration message draws praise, criticism from advocacy groups 9/24/2015 Summary: On Thursday Pope Francis spoke before the entire Congress to talk about the current overwhelming immigration crisis, but law makers doubt that the pontiffs speak will have a long term effect on policy regarding the asylum seekers. The pope is also seeking a serious change in the tone of the presidential debate, specifically in the case of Donald Trump, who’s known for his extreme anti-immigration comments. The pope isn’t looking for immigration reform in the sense that he wants a new want to give the 11 million illegal aliens living in the states a better way to citizenship; more that he’s calling for unlimited immigration for the asylum seekers from the Middle East. Once they come to the United States they will have to go through the same citizenship process as everyone else. Congress is run by Republicans who are primarily in favor of toughening up immigration laws and have increased deportations of illegal immigrants. However, President Obama has taken serious action to ensure that children born in the United States to illegal immigrants receive citizenship and are educated. He’s also made it so that people who came to America illegally as children can apply for citizenship and for working permits, the same applies to illegal parents of citizens living in America. Lynn Tramonte, a representative from America’s Voice, said that the efforts to aid the asylum......

Words: 566 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Discuss How Atwood and Miller Explore the Theme of Oppression in the Handmaid’s Tale and the Crucible.

...The theme of oppression is constant throughout both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crucible. Both show how religion can be twisted into a form of control in society and they show the huge detrimental and devastating effects this control can have. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible shows the horror and appalling nature of the Salem witch trials of 1692, but beneath this surface it shows the parallels to aspects in Miller’s own life at this period, with the idea of McCarthyism going out of control in America. McCarthyism was a result of the second red scare in America in the late 1940´s/1950’s. It was a fear driven movement that swept across the United States where the threat of a Communist world revolution seemed like a very real threat. In response to this branches of the government set up organisations such as HUAC (The House Un-American Activities Committee) to help fight Communism from infiltrating the state. Unfortunately in the end it simply led to a ´witch hunt´ in which people were brought to trial and accused of being communist, Miller amongst them. HUAC and McCarthyism were simply examples of how when those in power feel threatened they will do anything to maintain their position which is what Miller set out to show in The Crucible. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood took a different approach, with a dystopian text which shows a world in which women are heavily oppressed and religion is used as a tool to brainwash and control the population. Atwood has made a point of showing......

Words: 2479 - Pages: 10

Premium Essay


...3 TRENDS IN FEMINISM Structure 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Objectives 3.3 Liberal Feminism 3.3.1 Liberal Thought 3.3.2 Classical Liberal Feminism 3.3.3 Second Wave Liberal Feminism 3.3.4 Weakness/Limitations of the Liberal Feminism 3.3.5 Contribution to the Women’s Movement 3.4 Marxist Feminism 3.4.1 Foundations of Marxist Feminism 3.4.2 Other Key Elements in Marxist Feminism 3.4.3 Limitations of Marxist Feminism 3.4.4 Contribution to the Women’s Movement 3.5 Psychoanalytic Feminism 3.5.1 The Beginnings of Psychoanalytic Feminism – Countering Freudian Theories 3.5.2 Explanation by other Theorists 3.5.3 Limitations of Psychoanalytic Feminism 3.5.4 Contribution to the Women’s Movement 3.6 Radical feminism 3.6.1 Definition 3.6.2 The influences that shaped Radical Feminism 3.6.3 What are the variations of Radical Feminism? Radical- Libertarian Feminism Radical-Cultural Feminism 3.6.4 Radical Feminism – Its Structure 3.6.5 The Outcomes of the Movement 3.6.6 Critiques of Radical Feminism 3.6.7 Contribution to the Women’s Movement 3.7 Postmodern Feminism 3.7.1 Postmodern Thought 3.7.2 Postmodern rethinking of psychological explanation of gender 3.7.3 Postmodern Feminist 3.7.4 Limitations of Postmodern feminism 3.7.5 Contribution to the women’s Movement 3.8 Black Feminism and Womanism 3.8.1 The Beginnings of Black Feminism 3.9 Cyber Feminism 3.9.1 Origin of Cyber Feminism 3.9.2 Definition of the 100 Anti Thesis 3.9.3 Cyber art and its relation to Cyber feminism 3.9.4......

Words: 17769 - Pages: 72

Premium Essay


...claim that part of the problem is a tendency on the government's part to interpret "equality" as sameness, and then to treat women according to an unexamined standard of male normalcy.[10] Chapter two: definition, development, and categories of feminism 1. Definition of feminism Throughout history, women have always struggled to obtain equality, respect, and the same rights as men. This has been difficult because of patriarchy, an ideology in which men are superior to women and have the right to control women. This ideology has spread widely among the social structures of societies throughout the world. As a result, even in the new millennium, women are still struggling for rights that most men take for granted. The struggle was even harder for women of color for not only were they dealing with sexism, but racism. In order to fight patriarchy, feminism as well as feminist theory was born. What is feminism? Generally, feminism is a philosophy in which women and their contributions are valued. It is rely on social, political and economical equality for women. Feminism is also a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Feminists can be anyone, for instance, men, women, girls or boys. In this movement or revolution, women and men wish the world to be equal without boundaries. These......

Words: 2859 - Pages: 12

Premium Essay

Oppression on Women in Margaret Atwood's the Handmaid's Tale and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis

...Oppression on Women in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, is memoir of a little girl growing in Iran. She refers to a secular pre revolutionary time through contrast, the oppressive characteristics of the fundamentalist government upon women in particular. Her work is a lot similar to Margaret Atwood's, A Handmaid’s Tale, in which the protagonist Offred reflects upon her former life’s freedom, cherishing her former name and in doing so emphasizes the cloistered and enslaved life that she must now endure. Although both Margaret Atwood and Satrapi show how a totalitarian state oppresses women in different ways by taking away the freedom to think and decide for oneself, both accentuating on the ways a woman should dress, which stratified society in Handmaid’s tale and enforced religious modesty in Persepolis. Growing up in the western society, we often think clothing as a means of expressing our individuality, our style, defining who we are. Offred grew up in a similar environment but it was taken away once she became a Handmaid. That was the precise reason why she felt “ fascinated but also repelled” (28) at the same time when she saw the Japanese tourist. She says she “used to dress like that. That was freedom. Westernized they used to call it”(28). She says this because she no longer gets to dress like the tourists any more. In a very little amount of time, the society has forced every individual to change...

Words: 960 - Pages: 4