The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood begins by giving readers a clear image of what the woman is going through and the gender roles that are currently occurring. The narrator, who has not yet been named, describes sleeping in an old high school’s gymnasium that has specific odd smells. As she begins to think about how it was once like to be a high school student, it sounds as though she is missing the joy of being free.
It’s more than obvious that she isn’t here willingly, none of them are. It honestly sounds depressing how although there are only women inside of the gym, they’re not allowed to speak to one another unless if they speak without making any sounds, apart from also needing to sleep far apart, they also are allowed outside when taken out two by two.The gender role starts to show when their “Aunt” Sara and “Aunt” Elizabeth are brung up. I put quotations because maybe these two aren’t their aunts at all. Anyhow, so men can have guns but not women?…. Yet, they are all doing the same jobs. Patrolling the women and making sure that they all behave and follow the rules.
In my opinion, the men guards seem to be the only way that they could all get out, I can’t really explain why at the moment, I just have a feeling. Maybe the women would use their body to make an agreement? or a verbal agreement? The men guards don’t seem to be allowed to look at the women, no matter what. And must always have their back towards them. But, These women seem to be innocent, and they long for the guards to pay attention to them, at least once.
The act of having them there by force is brutal. I found it strange as well, how the women patrols are titled, “Aunt”. Could that be a name they were given so that the girls could feel some sort of comfort in this prison-like environment of theirs? But, on the other hand, prisoners are allowed to speak to one another, so being in that gym must feel far worse than what being in an actual prison is like.
What’s confusing is, it all seems like they’re being punished but, at the same time they’re being well taken care of? Isn’t it typically the opposite when someone is imprisoned? Of course, it is. “We had been set up in rows, with spaces between so we could not talk. We had flannelette sheets like children, and army-issue blankets, old ones that still said U.S” (page 4) They’re being comforted not only by having these, “Aunts” but by having these sort of materials as well. Another thought that came to my mind when the narrator stated that the blankets still said, U.S, on them, was freedom.
In the second chapter the scenery shifts. The narrator has her own room, which is cozy and fitting. Her room does not seem to be fully furnished but she seems to appreciate it anyway. “Think of it as being in the army, said aunt Lydia” (page7) I guess this means to think of her empty room as a privilege and not a prison cell? It would be a strange comparison but, since the narrator is technically in a group now, it makes sense. She follows rules and has to dress in all red, always.