Category Archives: Parts I-II

Class Discussion #8

“I agreed with Imani when she said

“Another piece of evidence that the lack of freedom is like an elephant in the room is that these women are under watched 24/7. When they’re allowed outside they MUST walk in pairs , not in a group, but pairs, the have guardians ans angels who watch them and Aunt Sara and Elizabeth and on page 18 the narrator refers to Nick as an Eye. She literally paranoid wherher if he’s part of the Commander protecting the girls , lack of freedom .

I agreed with this because as I was reading this I was thinking of the exact same thing. It is sad that these women who are Handmaids are force to live with a married couple only to be use as a baby machine. Then to have to deal with the fact that the Wife of the house does not welcome them and that they have to constantly worry about their life living with these people. Offred had a family of her own and it is a shame that she is not allow to raise her own family but to be en-slave to another family only because she can bare kids. It is also sad how the women have a bunch of people that are hire just to spy on them. The Handmaids even have to worry about it each other. Freedom In this world is very limited and Imani talks about this in her blog. This is why I pick Imani.

Living in a World with No Freedom

 

I was replacing this.

A Dismal Future

The first 2 parts of the The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is confusing , it is a first person point of view  so far, so any info gathered is from the main characters perspective only. But i understood why. It shows us the perspective of the main character, Offred, she remembers the time when she had her own free will and that she had her freedom. “I hated to waste them and would stuff them in under the sink, until the day would come when there would be too many” (Atwood27) .

The U.S.A. became this authoritarian country land now named Gilead. In this place the ruler and leader is called the Commander and he regulates everyone life by making them either officers in his command or slaves of varying degrees. The clothes she wears represents her status and job in society and is the only clothes she can wear”Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which define us. The skirt is ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed issue; they are too keep us from seeing, but also from being seen.”(8) This is reminds me of a nun in red that has on blinders that not only stops you from seeing but others from whistling or harassing you.

The society Offred lives in uses colors as a code for status in this society “black, for the Commander, blue, for the Commander’s wife and the one assigned to me, which is red.”(9) When Offred describes a woman named Rita she describes her color “She’s in her usual Martha’s dress, which is dull green,like a surgeon’s gown of the time before.”(9) This shows that there will be more examples of color’s representing status in this society but what interests me is that hen the angels are mentioned they had a very different description “They were objects of fear to us,”(4) We don’t get a description of the Angels but of it made her feel. Why is there no description of them. Is it just a rank  do they have color schemed at all?   Something i noticed about her name which i just noticed about her name, its Off-red and she wears all red everyday which represents her wanting to be different from the fate society put her in.

Offred is afraid of almost all people surrounding her. Especially the Commander’s wife and even the young guardians, ” The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns” (20). “She is always prepared for the worst, and is always reminded that she might not survive, ” Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted.” (18). I understand why Aunt Lydia made her memorize this, what the Martha, Rita, said about the wife of the Commander “Stillborn it was. Or, stabbed her with a knitting needle, right in the belly. Jealousy, it must have been, eating her up..”(11) its possible that they are very much expendable properties of the government and because of this are not as valued or privileged as they were taught.

 

Living in a World with No Freedom

The first two parts of The Handmaid’s Tale raised a few questions for me . Who are the Angels? Did the war lead to the anarchy rule of the country ? What does the term waste not want not mean? Is the narrator a wife too ? Or a handmaiden? Can one be both , a handmaiden and a wife ?

From reading the first two parts it’s clear that these women, and even the Guardians don’t posses any Freedom. For example, on page 4,last paragraph the narrator mentions that her and the other girls from the Red Center slept in an gymnasium on old U.S. Army cots and they weren’t allowed to speak or touch one another , it States “We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semidarkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hand across space. We learned to lipread, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouth.” What kind of place are they in ? What government rule is going on ? This is like confined imprisonment! Their freedom of speech and human interaction is being taken away, it’s our human rights.

Another part of the novel that reflects that these women have no freedom is on page 16, where the narrator and I’m assuming the main wife is having their first interaction. We learn that the narrator is replacing a former wife (so is the narrator a wife or handmaid) and the ‘main’ wife stated, “As for my husband, she said, he’s just that. My husband. I want that to be perfectly clear . Till death do us part. It’s final.” What kind of wive isn’t allowed to be with her own husband? In my opinion it’s either the Commander has one wife or removes the jealous one. After reading the chapter I started brainstorming and put two-and-two together. Here on page 16 is clear that the wife is territorial over her man, and the narrator doesn’t know why the wife before her was replaced and on page 11 we read that the narrator over heard the Martha’s over saying, “Stillborn it was. Or, stabbed her with a knitting needle, right in the belly. Jealousy, it must have been, eating her up..” well we do know that the widen knits, so maybe the wife before the narrator slept with the Commander and gotten pregnant and the wife was jealous and poisoned or killed her. I might be overthinking the text but I think somethings up with the wife and she’s not fond of her husband having multiple sleeping partners. This gives the other wives lack of freedom as well. One, they probably don’t want to be part of his hold and on top of that they can’t share the man who they’re all tending too.

Another piece of evidence that the lack of freedom is like an elephant in the room is that these women are under watched 24/7. When they’re allowed outside they MUST walk in pairs , not in a group, but pairs, they have guardians and angels who watch them and Aunt Sara and Elizabeth, whoever they are and on page 18 the narrator refers to Nick as an Eye. She, the narrator is literally paranoid whether if he’s part of the Commander protecting the girls , lack of freedom .

Not belonging

The novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Artwood starts talking about a new world and society in which women are used for procreation only. The first chapter gives us a small hint of what life was before this new world came about. Maybe even how things could be if there wasn’t a Commander, which is the leader of this society, regulating your every day life.

The story is written in the first person point of view which is from Offred, one of the many girls living in this house with the Commander and his wife being used only to produce offsring. The interesting aspect of Offred is that she knows she doesn’t belong. She has memories of when she was a child, being able to dress as she pleased, not having to wear only red, the color of the Handmaids. She feels different and knows this is not the only life for her. She is not like the other girls who take pride in being used for children feeling proud to be the ones who get pregnant for the Commander. There is Janine who “looks at me, then, and around the corners of her mouthy there is the trace of a smirk. She glanced down to where my own belly lies flat under my red robe, and the wings cover her face (Atwood 27).

There is a lot of order in this society and the house where the Handmaids are kept runs like a military camp. The beds and sheets even are the ones used in the military “we had flannelette sheets, like children’s, and army issued blanks old ones that still said U.S” (Atwood 4). Everyone is distinguished by the color they wear, the Handmaids wearing the color red, the Commander black and his wife wears blue. Everything strictly regulated and enforced with guards which are known as angels standing gard outside, because they are not allowed inside. The story is a lot like 1984 in which the society is always being watched and everything single thing they do is controlled and closely monitored. It will be very interesting to know how they story will continue and how much more similarities will be found to the novel 1984. There is also that similarity from Station Eleven in which the memories of the old world haunt the person who knows how life could have been and how they want their life to be. All the changes that have occurred all of which they had no control nor say in.

What are they hoping for?

In Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale I can’t help but notice how the protagonist, Offred, has such attention to the smallest details. She describes every little thing in such beautiful detail and color, “around the edges; the flower borders, in which the daffodils are now fading and the tulips are opening their cups, spilling out color. The tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem, as if they have been cut and are beginning to heal there” (12). I guess she has no other choice, but to notice such things. Her life seems so dull and empty, in contrast to the flowers. They remind her about her past life, when he had her own garden, where she grew her own flowers and she had freedom to do as she wanted and touch and smell and live. These flowers bring out felling, which she has to constantly compress in herself, ” I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs help in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers” (12).

Offred is kept in a constant state of fear by almost all the people surrounding her. It could be by the Commander’s wife or even by young guardians, ” The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns” (20). She is always prepared for the worst, and is always reminded that she might not survive, ” Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thrones. Some of you are shallow-rooted.” (18). Why does Aunt Lydia make her memorize this, what does she really mean when saying that not all of them will make it through? 

Through out the novel Offred is reminiscing on her past possessions like the shorts and jeans, which she bought with her own money. She would put on what she wanted and bought what she wished, but now she is dressed in only a red, covering most of her body parts, including her face. Offred’s face is covered with white wigs keeping her even from seeing. She remembers not only her clothes, but even the plastic shopping bags in her kitchen, “I hated to waste them and would stuff them in under the sink, until the day would come when there would be too many” (27). It is in these memories she realizes how she would take things for granted, “it is true, i took too much for granted; I trusted fate, back then” (27). It feels as though she is in a constant state of sadness and sorrow. I wonder what it is that keeps her and the other handmaids going and living in such a terrifying  environment. What are they hoping for? That one day they will be able to return to her past life, to the people they miss and love or that one day they will gain their freedom back? What is it these girls need to accomplish in order to get released or is there really no way out for them? Maybe they will be kept as slaves for the rest of their lives. 

Forbidden world

When the women in the world were limited on their activities, thinking and certain communications, what would their life look like after? I was really impressed after I read the first two parts of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. All women are limited to live in one place, and get protected by the guardians which named by Angels. And at this moment, the position in the society seemed to be more obvious. Lower classes will be working for the upper classes.

In the place named Gilead, it comes a new class which was called the handmaid, who actually works for those women in the upper class which were not able to get pregnant, The world in the book so far had been affected by lack of healthy women which able to get pregnant. As the women walked out the house, they only see the men who worked as the guardians for them, they wished those guardians who were names Angels could talk to them a little, however, this could not be achieved because they were assigned to work for upper classes and help them to get babies. The world in Gilead was getting unequal upon the sudden change in the environment and those handmaids were treating like tools to those commanders.

Life seemed to a little hard since the new society of “The republic of Gilead”. In the narrator’s memory, back in the time that before the Gilead period, they, the women were not being protected and they had to keep the doors shut in order to protect themselves from the strangers, and had to ignored the catcalls in the streets do they will be safe. But now under the protection, they were not being whistled when they walk in the streets and none will touch them even they go into streets. Life seemed to be better, however it was getting worse to them. They wished the guardians, the Angels could talk to them or they could talk to them instead. However, they were not allowed to do that any more. As the handmaids, they were limited on their activities and being used as the upper classes’ tools for pregnancy after.

Throughout the part I and part II in the book, the unequal status was so obvious and those healthy were mostly used as the tools for pregnancy, dissatisfy was fully expressed throughout sentences.

Unfortunate Circumstances

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a novel that has been developed in a first person view, which gives it a deeper and more personal feel overall. Upon reading the first few pages of the story, I couldn’t really get a good grip on what was going on, I believe it’s because of the lack of information given before I was introduced into the story. After getting through a few pages, I found myself unable to look away from the book. The unraveling of the mystery behind what I read in the beginning of the story kept me interested.

In the beginning of the novel, a woman was introduced, who I believe is the protagonist. The protagonist and according to the story, several other women were kept inside of this house, as if they were prisoners but they were maids. “ In the semidarkness we could stretch out our arms when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space ” (Atwood 4). The preceding quote was very shocking to me at first, because of my ignorance about the situation, but after reading it, I started to realize that these women were being treated harshly. They were deprived of even the basics of human interactions. These maids were being treated as inferior to the owners or occupants of the house, as in the commander, his wife, and the Aunts.

There seems to be a lot of rules according to what I’ve read so far, which means there are consequences attached to those rules in case they’ve been broken. An example of such rules can be found in the following quote, “ We learned to lip read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths” (4). The preceding quote gives the reader hints about one of the rules in the house, which is no talking past bedtime. I thought that was unnecessary and somewhat controlling towards the maids.

 

While I was reading a bit further into the story, I came upon certain moments that made me question the reason for the willingness of the maids to stay in that place. “ She probably longed to slap my face. They can hit us, there’s scriptural precedent. But not with any implement. Only with their hands” (16). The preceding quote is an example of how inhuman the maids were treated. The contents of that quote is one of the several reasons why I found myself questioning their willingness to remain in such a place.

The following is a picture from the tv show based on the novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

I came across some readers who translated the beginning of the story into something completely different from what I think it is. An example of that is suggesting that the maids are being treated so harshly because they are women and that the men are the ones doing it, as far as I’ve seen from chapters one and two, that statement is false. “ She wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so” (13). The preceding quote shows that the commanders wife is using her authority to look down on and perhaps abuse the maids. Another example would be the Aunts, according to the following quote, they seems to be the ones enforcing the rules in the house, “ In the semidarkness we could stretch out our arms when the Aunts weren’t looking,” (4). The protagonist and the rest of the women were afraid to let the Aunts see them physically interacting, which says a lot about the Aunts control over them.

To Taste the Fruits of Freedom and Individualism is a Sin

In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, society’s set up as a religious hierarchy ranging from the rich, powerful aristocracy to the struggling slaves of the working class. In the book, the Commander and his wife are on top of everyone else. They are essentially gods. The Guardians, Angels, Marthas, and Handmaids “worship” them. They are meant and expected to faithfully fulfill the dutiful roles that are assigned by the Commander. The protagonist/narrator is a Handmaid named Offred.

The story has a lot of imagery, especially with the colors designated to a particular group of persons. The Commander’s dressed in black. Blue for the Commander’s wife, green represents the Marthas, and red for the Handmaids.

Perhaps the color red represents Offred’s lust for love. In the text, “What if I were to come at night, when he’s on duty alone – though he would never be allowed such solitude – and permit him beyond my white wings? What if I were to peel off my red shroud and show myself to him, to them, by the uncertain light of the lanterns? This is what they must think about sometimes, as they stand endlessly beside this barrier…” (21). “They touch with their eyes instead and I move my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me. It’s like thumbing your nose from behind a fence or teasing a dog with a bone held out of reach, and I’m ashamed of myself for doing it, because none of this is the fault of these men, they’re too young.” (22). “Then I find I’m not ashamed at all. I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there. I hope they get hard at the sight of us and have to rub themselves against the painted barriers, surreptitiously.” (22). Offred wants to break free from conservatism that’s imposed on her.

Perhaps that’s why she’s given the name of Offred. She claims that, “I never looked good in red, it’s not my color.” (8). Similar to other Handmaids, Offred is “offered” to the Commander. Her services are “offered” to “the Lord”. However, unlike her fellow workers, Offred is “off red”. She seeks to be different from the rest. Offred secretly wants to enjoy the denied virtues of being a full fledged, independent woman.

Society, both in real life and in the novel, pays a lot of attention to etiquette and decorum. People are restricted to norms. For prosperous societies and regimes to remain intact, certain rules/laws are strictly enforced and conditions are to be met. Failure to conform is considered a crime, treason, or blasphemy and results in punishment. As seen in the story, “I remember the rules, rules that were never spelled out but that every woman knew: Don’t open your door to a stranger, even if he says he is the police. Make him slide his ID under the door. Don’t stop on the road to help a motorist pretending to be in trouble. Keep the locks on and keep going. If anyone whistles, don’t turn to look. Don’t go into a laundromat, by yourself, at night.” (24). The people that obey such rules are rendered automatic. Hopefully Offred can eventually attain her salvation by finding a loophole to exploit, which could shine the light on a path to reclaim her humanity.

Lost and Trapped

As soon as reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood I get the feeling of new world and new rules. There is not too much explanation as to why things are how they are or why certain rules or circumstances exist. Although I find that odd to not give even the tiniest bit of backstory but it intrigues me.

The way the story is written so far helps me understand the feeling of “foreign,” not belonging almost but not quite. Offred quickly realizes that she is not welcome in the house that she now resides in. “So, you’re the new one, she said. She didn’t step aside to let me in, she just stood there in the doorway, blocking the entrance. She wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so.” (13) Long quote, yes I know. But the way this was worded is perfect to further describe the feeling of being alienated. The Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, made it known that a woman of her kind was not exactly welcomed but she also had no choice but to let her in. I myself as a woman felt so uncomfortable for both of these women just by how it was written. You could feel the awkwardness but you can also see how the Commander’s wife wanted her position to be known. Although I assume that was not necessary but because she felt vulnerable at that point she found the need to act out in that way.

Atwood throws the color red at us in many ways and in many parts of the book so far. Red symbolizes fertility or sexual sin as well like the Scarlet Letter. It also symbolizes blood I’m guessing to make a connection with what their “occupation” is and the color red. At a point of the story it is said, “The red of the smile is the same as the red of the tulips on Serena Joy’s garden, towards the base of the flowers where they are beginning to heal. The red is the same but there is no connection.” (33) This gave me the sense that she is struggling to keep the definition of what red is supposed to mean to her. “I put a lot of effort into making such distinctions. I need to make them. I need to be very clear, in my own mind.” (33) This quote just further shows that she still has not completely adapted to the lifestyle that she is now put into. She really is having a problem keeping things from intermixing. She needs to keep her ideas and what she is supposed to know completely separated from one another.

In parts 1-2 I also realized that for some reason the handmaid’s and the “martha’s” do not really get along. They don’t really interact with each other. They both are female servants of a kind but its like the Martha’s judge the handmaid’s for what they do. Rita , a martha says “she wouldn’t debase herself like that.” (10) So much for understanding each others struggles right? They both do what they think is best for themselves to survive in this world but they are being judged despite knowing that.