The Handmaid's Tale: Plot Analysis

1923 words - 8 pages

The Handmaid's Tale is written by Margaret Atwood and was originally published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985. The novel is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of a new totalitarian theocratic state society that is terrifying and horrific. Its main concentration is on the subjugation of women in Gilead, and it also explores the plethora of means by which the state and agencies gain control and domination against every aspect of these women's lives. Restrictive dress codes also play an important factor as a means of social order and control in this new society.

Offred, not her real name but the name given to her by her occupation, is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. The Republic of Gilead is a totalitarian dictatorship and theocratic state that has won victory by means of military coup, thus replacing the former United States of America. This new Republic is ruled through Christian Biblical Fundamentalism with an extremist restriction and enforcement on all aspects of social-economical and political live.

In Gilead, perhaps because of the former United States past histories of reckless miss care for the environment and secret biological experiments there is result of dangerously low reproduction rates. The population is extremely low and people in Gilead find it very hard to get pregnant and bear successful healthy babies to perpetuate the species.

To this end, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for Commanders and other Offices or members of the elite that cannot conceive naturally. The protagonists and narrator is a female named Offred. The given occupational Handmaid alias of Offred simply means she is ‘Of her Commander who is named Fred'. Offred is an intellectual woman, she is also kind, caring, and very thoughtful and perceptive. Unlike her mother, Offred is not a feminist advocate, and has displayed her un-comfort for activism several times throughout the novel. She had a former husband named Luke, and they had a little daughter together before the new regime took over.

Offred's purpose is to serve the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. When Offred is at the crucial point in her menstrual cycle when she is most fertile, the Commander must have passionless sex with Offred in order to accomplish the objective of impregnating her. This is Offred's third attempt; she was not successful with the two Commanders before this one. If Offred fails again she will be declared an Unwoman and sent to the colonies for hard labor. Offred's freedom is completely restricted. She can not have the door to her room totally shut, and she can leave the house only on specific purposeful trips such as to visit the wall or for purchasing grocery items. All the while, Gilead's secret police forces, known only as ‘Eyes', are scrutinizing every move she makes.

As the female narrators reads the story to the audience we realize that she often has flashbacks to former times, when the United States was...

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