Looking forward to seeing your favorites for this week (due W 11/8). Best of luck to everyone 🙂
In part three to part eight of the book, the limitations were expressed everywhere, especially for the women which seemed to be restricted on sexual expressions, whether they are feminists or the religious conservatives. The sexuality seemed to be extremely limited, especially the women’s sexuality. Women living in the country of Gilead lost most of their freedoms and unable to do what you really want to, not only on activity, but also on the thoughts.
Pregnancy seemed to be a big problem for the women living in Gilead. The society rejected about the modern beliefs and put all problems on the women but not the men upon sterile. Men would never be judged on the sterile officially which only some people knew about this. Even though it was illegal, but the doctor was still desired for the strange women. Illegal activities always happened under the surface of Gilead’s surface society, just like the women fertile by the lower-class men such as the doctors.
Another aspect which indicated the unequal treatments occurred in Gilead. When Janine shared the story about the gang-rape which happened in fourteen. None of the women felt sympathy on her but judge on her that she let them go on, and the god allowed this happen and teach Janine a lesson about this. However, normally women should not go against with women on such sensitive problem and leave out sympathy, this did not happen in Gilead. They enjoyed putting the condemnation on Janine on what happened on her and never care about what she truly felt on this and call her a crybaby instead. They despised on her weakness which greatly expressed how the world in Gilead was changing, the unequal were going deeply into these women’s mind and affected what they thought about themselves or the other women.
Basically the women in Gilead were used as a tool for the purpose of reproductions, they seemed to have no life but just used for other benefits of the society. Sexual love and romantic love will never exist among them. The government in Gilead were controlling the women’s bodies for the next generation reproduction which the narrator greatly complained about.
Reading through parts three to eight of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood religion seems to play an essential role throughout the story. Whether it be the Commander, the men, the handmaid’s or Gilead itself their lives are molded because of religion.
Bibles are locked away and only accessible to the men in the house. “The Bible is kept locked up, the way people once kept tea locked up, so the servants wouldn’t steal it. It’s an incendiary device: who knows what we’d make of it, if we ever got out hands on it? We can be read to from it, by him, but we cannot read.” (87) It is almost as if the women cannot be trusted to interpret the Bible themselves. The typical, men know better and they will be the ones to make decisions kind of thing. How do the women even know if what is being read to them is even real? But they do not have the luxury of reading the Bible for themselves. It is a society dominated by men who now make the decisions for the women. They go so far as even educating them religiously. Definitely not how the world once was in Gilead.
Ironically, the house Offred is sent to the room she is given to stay in has a cushion that has the word Faith written on it. “There’s a hard little cushion on it, with a petit point cover: FAITH, in square print, surrounded by a wreath of lilies.” (57) Why lilies? Lilies symbolize “that the soul of the departed has restored innocence after death.” (teleflora.com) Restored innocence, the irony cannot be overlooked. This women is looked down upon for the role she plays in the society yet this is the cushion in her room. Handmaid’s are not respected by wives. They are meant to wear a certain color for a reason. The red sets them apart from the women that are supposed to be “respected.” All the handmaid’s come to do is gift these women who spit at them and scoff at them as they pass a child. The child that these women cannot carry themselves because of whatever complication. “We put our hands over our hearts to show these stranger women that we feel with them in their loss. Beneath her veil the first one scowls at us. One of the others turns aside, spits on the sidewalk. The Econowives do not like us.” (44) However, is it not odd that of all things, this cushion with the word faith that also has lilies ends up in this handmaid’s room? Given her status in this society how could one possibly overlook that cushion? Handmaid’s are not allowed to read either so why even give a handmaid a single word to read. “It’s the only thing they’ve given me to read. If I were caught doing it, would it count? I didn’t put the cushion here myself.” (57) Does this foreshadow her death in any sort of way? Is this Serena Joy’s way of acknowledging that she hates Offred but understands why she is here therefor cannot judge her to the extreme that most women judge handmaid’s.
In “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, our main protagonist, Offred is a handmaid who serves her commander. They are seen as the lowest in the hierarchy and is demanded the most, as they have the potential to give birth to a deprived nation. Given the circumstances that their life is no longer what is was before, they’re trying to blend in. Those who cannot give birth are seen as useless to society, while man is seen as the dominant figure. Man will not be questioned, unless they associate themselves with abortion or homosexuality. Those who live in Gilead, are living under extreme rules. Women are being oppressed by men and is seen nothing more than a mere tool for reproduction.
In Gilead, women do not have a voice unless she is her social ranking in high in the hierarchy. While women aren’t able to voice their opinion, women like Offred, is trying to get impregnated. Being impregnated in this society is seen to be a blessing to their society. I was shocked when reading this: “It’s Janine, telling about how she was gang-raped at fourteen and had an abortion. She told the same story last week. She seemed almost proud of it, while she was telling” (71). She seemed so proud of being a rape victim but was immediately shut down by Aunt Helena.
Given the situation in Gilead, it seems like society has reverted back to a more older past. Women are seen as tools for men to use and are unable to speak their freedom. Their wings are clipped and literally feels like they are trapped in a cage. Those who are able to give birth, are see as dominant and is shown better care than those who cannot.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is not what I expected it to be, I pictured a much darker story than it turned out to be. While I was reading parts III to VIII, I was amazed by the Handmaid’s unwillingness to give up on the small pleasures of life even under the horrible circumstances they had to live in. I predicted to see the Handmaid’s spirit crumble under the horrible and often enough filthy situations they were in, but I was wrong. “Sometimes I sing to myself, in my head; something lugubrious, mournful, Presbyterian”(Atwood 54). This quote is an important one because even though she’s being treated as a means to an end, as an object, her mind is her own and she will do what she wants with it regardless of the rules. I really like that, it shows that she has a similar mindset to those of slaves, you can take away their freedom, take away everything they hold dear, but it is up to them whether or not you can break their spirits.
People living under conditions where they are regarded as less than others and as a means to an end, usually end up forgetting who they are and what they are worth. The protagonist in the novel, contrary to others, refuses to forget who she is, they gave her a Handmaid’s name, however she will not give up on her own. “ My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because its forbidden” (84). This quote tells the reader that she knows what her name is, but she buried it deep in her mind to be recovered at a later time. This goes back to the earlier moments where she did not allow her oppressors to have control over her mind, they are trying to change her personality, but she won’t let them.
The protagonist often uses her imagination to relive joyful moments of her past life, she imagines them with as much details as she can, perhaps hoping she could go back and enjoy them once more “ We would lie in those afternoon beds, afterwards, hands on each other, talking it over” (51). This quote shows that she doesn’t let her mind succumb to the less than ideal moments she’s been through, she still remembers the pleasurable ones, and she longs for them.While I was reading a bit further, I couldn’t resist the urge to compare her visit to the doctor with the memory she has of Luke. “ My breasts are fingered in their turn, a search for ripeness, rot,”(60). “ Two brown eyes, a nose, a head with brown hair on it. His hand is between my legs” (60). These quotes show the doctors behavior towards her, he’s using his position to pressure her to give into him, compared to her past life, where she actually had the desire to do so.
The following pictures depicts two very different worlds.
After reading further into the novel, I can’t help it but wonder why the Handmaid’s won’t rise up and decide enough is enough. They are treated as objects, looked down upon, and they have to abide by the several strict rules set upon them, surely they would rather live in better conditions. Perhaps they think it would be best to keep their heads down and hope for an opportunity for a better life to come by. Perhaps they simple do not have a better choice or were not allowed to make that choice. I can only make assumptions at the moment due to my ignorance of the full story in the novel.
Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intent to last (Atwood 8)
From the very beginning Offred is aware of the many threats to her survival, threats both from without and within herself. Offred understands that the carefully control of her consciousness is key to her sanity and ultimate survival. I will examine some of the techniques that Offred uses to survive the forces that are the biggest threat to her well-being.
Thoughts and emotions must be carefully unspun so as not to lose self-control. “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” (Atwood 33). Offred constantly tries to never let her thoughts and emotions run ahead of her. The taut spring of her mind must be unwound very slowly and deliberately.
Sensory stimuli is food to the soul. “But a chair, sunlight, flowers: these are not to be dismissed. I am alive. I live. I breathe” (Atwood 8) Like any prisoner, Offred understands that the more acute her awareness of the sensory stimuli that surrounds her, the better she can create a world in which she can survive and find meaning. She can feel the sunlight, bask in its heat and allow the visual stimulus to fill her. She can internalize the beauty of a flower, its soft perfection. She can lose herself in herself, in being alive, in breathing, slowly, feeling the cool air rushing through her nostrils as she inhales. She can expel her fears as she exhales. Breathing, cycle after cycle to transcend her current difficult reality. “I hunger to touch something other than cloth or wood” (Atwood 8). Despite the availability of visual stimuli Offred yearns for tactile stimulus. She would gladly work in the kitchen, kneads dough, prepare food just to feel the food with her hands.
Offred uses the nights to escape the present by visiting the past. “The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will” (37). Offred can take mundane memories from the past and relive them, her friend Moira being a good example. Simple, silly and banal memories can, like old movies, be rerun in her mind to escape that which does not bear thought; the present.
The past is a double edged sword. It brings escape and joy but also pain and yearning:“I step into the water, lie down, let it hold me. The water is soft as hands. I close my eyes and she’s there with me, suddenly, without warning, it must be the smell of the soap” (Atwood 63). Smell can be a particularly powerful stimulus, it can bypass our consciousness and motivate us to action before we are even aware of it. Longings for her lost daughter are never far from Offred’s heart and constantly threaten her equilibrium. “The kitchen smells of yeast, a nostalgic smell…This is a nostalgic smell, and I know I must shut it put “ (Atwood 47). The smell of cooking and baking are also powerful stimuli and must be controlled.
Reading parts III to VIII of the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood have become very emotional. Reading through how Offred has to go through day by day as a Handmaid is upsetting and disgusting. The title as a Handmaid, given to women, is similar to a prostitute however almost all of their rights are taken away. This happened when the nation has fallen and overthrown by a new government called the Gilead. The Gilead arrange the Handmaids to be personal sex workers for families who can not conceive children. That is the position of the protagonist Offred. Offred has to suffer of the force of Gilead of being a Handmaid maid because she is a woman who is fertile and she makes an attempt to rebel if she can.
Offred visits her doctor where the doctor sexually harass her, then she refuses him and his offer to help Offred. When Offred will soon be in a uncomfortable situation with her doctor as he sexually harass her, “My breasts are fingered in their turn, a search for ripeness, rot. The breathing comes nearer” (Artwood 60). During this moment the doctor offers to help Offred. She starts to imagine about her previous husband Luke, who’s whereabouts are unknown as of now, can be found. Offred’s hope about Luke represents how much she wants to be loved by someone, rather than being a sex object. This shows how the Gilead influence creates this norm that Handmaids are nothing more than sex slaves to have children. The doctor’s offer doesn’t seem to assist Offred’s situations at all. He touches Offred without her permission as he places his hand between Offred’s legs as he intends to have sex with her in the end (Artwood 61). This shows pre-Gilead harassment. She doesn’t stop him and as the doctor tells Offred the truth that she wants to have a baby. She responds, “‘Yes,’ I say. It’s true, and I don’t ask why, because I know. Give me children, or else I die. There is more than one meaning to it” (Artwood 61). Offred is under the influence of the Gilead. Due to the order that Gilead creates to make Handmaids, she can’t go against them. Offred know of the consequences of rebelling where dying is one option of having a punishment. This is what the interpretation of “There is more than one meaning to it” may mean. She refuses the doctor’s offer as she doesn’t want to break any Gilead laws.
Offred will commence The Ceremony of having sex with her commander with the commander’s wife present, this the duty of a Handmaid. The scene is described where Offred lies on her back on Serena Joy’s, the commander’s wife, bed. Offred is fully wearing her clothes except for her underwear. Offred lies between Serena Joy’s legs, while Serena Joy is wearing clothes, and they hold hands. The commander has sex with Offred’s lower body (Artwood 93-94). Offred knows they are not making love nor does it count as rape to her as she explains, “Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for,” (Artwood 94). The atmosphere in the room is serious where any feelings being shown here is unnecessary. This scene demonstrates what it is meant of a Handmaid, nothing but a body to have sex with. Offred doesn’t think about Luke or love and she remains unemotional during the entire process. This shows what the Gilead is doing to Offred and other Handmaids.
The story is now starting to give me a good idea as to what kind of society The story takes place in. And from what i can tell. This place seems to be no different than any other “pure religious” society or dictatorship. The main difference being is the fact that women are considered cattle. Cattle to be bread, grown, wed, over and over and over again. It’s the kind of society where it is common belief that the cattle known as women should be happy because of the fact that they are considered safe from the troubles that reality would throw at them. You know, now that i think about it. In this society. Woman are considered too frail to handle to Their environment on their own. Which is why they are constantly guided to act, speak and even think in specific ways. It’s extremely condescending. A group of people being treated as unthinking animals that have to be forced to live in a specific way for their own good. This society seems to think that they know what’s best for the woman who live in it while also completely missing the point of what they think when it comes to their own personal purpose in life. The worst part (in my opinion) is how most of the woman just accept such a change. I mean, don’t get me wrong, i understand why they did it. They have to follow regardless of what they personally think because of the heavy and deadly opposition they would likely be met with if they were to resist. The doctors who are are being retroactively punished for performing abortion and the 3 men who were hanged for committing homosexual acts are proof of this. And knowing that this is becoming the norm is what really truly hurts me. Offred having her child taken away from her because the authorities thought that she was for some reason “unfit” to care a child which, somewhat sounds like a group of people forcing their own ideologies of how things are supposed to be on to others. And not being able to do anything about it Is the most frustrating thing about these sorts of societies. In current day U.S. We’re able to speak our minds, fight out against perceived injustices and live lives in ways that we see fit but, in a society during the Gilead era, that sort of personal freedom is stifled completely. And the reasoning for it is to create a peaceful and wholesome which is where the problem inherently lies. This society is being run off of the ideology of a specific group of people. And that group is the Republic of Gilead. Honestly my stance on this sort of world stands completely and utterly against its values. You can’t just create a society under one specific ideology and force everyone else to go with it as if your perspective Is supposed to be in the definitive right over anyone else’s. It’s that sort of hubris that honestly not only annoys me right down to the core but also has me wanting to tear these kinds of societies down straight to its very foundation. A city built on one groups ideologies is not a society for the people at all. It’s just a world that only groups like The Gilead’s can feel happy and safe in. And their perspective, like many others like them (like communist leaders/dictators for example) Seem to be justified by the craziest and downright one sided reasons. Reasons such as religion, birthright rulings, deluded sense of perceived knowledge or intelligence, etc. It’s just not fair to see these kinds of societies exist. It’s because of this society that offred is basically reduced to an animal that needs to be cared for guided and ultimately controlled. It’s because of this society that she has lost her husband, her child and later her very own freedom. So now, as i see it. This story can go in one of two ways. There can either be an insurrection led by the oppressed to overthrow their current rulers then later create a society in their own image or, everyone slowly grow more and more complacent to the point where they end up completely accepting their current predicament. I honestly hope that the second route doesn’t come to pass. But, if the first major coup d’etat doesn’t happen before the next two generation of children are born and grown to later replace the first generation Gilead age citizens then all hope will likely be lost. The kids that grow in this age be it boy or girl will recognize their current world as the norm and any chance of resisting will later die with the first generation’s natural passing. It’s the natural circle of mindless cattle. You raise them, teach them, guide them, bread them then repeat with the newer generation.
P.S: There really isn’t much of a thesis to this response. Just my opinion of the society and nothing else
After reading the Handmaid’s Tale parts three to eight, in part three: Night, the main character Offred has flashbacks of a time when society wasn’t restricted by rules in which the females are being used for reproduction. She holds the memory of her college days, spending time with her mother and was present when older females were burning dirty magazines. This is the same as Kirsten in Station Eleven and how she holds on to memories of someone special in her life. Offred however seems to be forming some sort of coping mechanism, which we can be found in Chapter 7, page 40, ” I’ll pretend you can hear me. But it’s no good, because I know you can’t”. It seems that the in her story telling she just hopes for some form of change and the only way for her to keep the dream alive is to live in the past.
But the part off the reading that stands out in this society is the way the women think about each other and how they pressure the new handmaid’s into a form of thinking in which whatever may happen to them, is their own fault. This radical thinking can be pin pointed to a dominate male that is abusive and a control freak that puts all the blame on his partner. In part 5, page seventy-two, we get a glimpse of how society sees gang-rape and abortion in this society. ” Her fault, her fault, her fault, we chant in unison.”, this was directed towards Janine when she tells about her past when she joined the handmaid’s. She bursts in tears when she told the story to all the other females, they called her a crybaby and they meant it. They psychologically changed her afterwards where she begins by saying that it was her fault for leading the men on, and that’s why she was gang-raped. On the same page we see how the other handmaid’s especially Aunt Helena has influenced her and warped her, ” It was my own fault. I led them on. I deserve the pain.”. This is something that shouldn’t be happening and is how the society is able to control these women into adhering to the norm that the society puts up as rules to control them.
We see later that Offred is either having another flashback or daydreaming on page seventy-one in which she says ” 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.” In this quote we see her free will that she had before this society came about and in page seventy-three she goes on to say, “I have failed once again to fulfill the expectations of others, which have become my own.”, giving us the prove we need to understand that she has conformed to the ideology of this new society and is losing her own free will if not has already lost it to her identity as a handmaid.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Parts III-VIII, Offred the Handmaid spends a lot of time remembering parts of her past. She creates more images of her life both before and after the change of society. She has many memories of her friend Moira, who she reminisces a lot about. Moira used to be a college classmate friend of Offred’s, and she also became a Handmaid along with Offred. Offred reminisces of her time in college, before the societal change: “I had a paper due the next day. What was it? Psychology, English, economics. We studied things like that, then” (37-38). Another important memory of hers was a time at or right after the societal turning point, when people were burning pornographic magazines. “There were some men, too, among the women, and the books were magazines. They must have poured gasoline, because the flames shot high, and then they began dumping the magazines, from boxes, not too many at a time. Some of them were chanting; onlookers gathered. Their faces were happy, ecstatic almost” (38). The most revealing and surprising thing about this excerpt is that the women (who were the majority in the crowd) were very happy with burning the magazines, which implied that they were happy with the change in society.
Later on in the same chapter, Offred has an internal monologue in which she thinks about her new life as a Handmaid: “I would like to believe this is a story I am telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling. It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden “(39). This shows that Offred is very depressed with her life as a Handmaid, and she wishes that she is able to change her life at will, as she says that ‘if it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending’. She further emphasizes her lack of freedom when she describes that she has ‘nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden’.
In Chapter 22, Offred pieces together the accounts of Aunt Lydia and Janine to tell the story of Moira’s rebellion and escape from being a Handmaid. It is revealed that Moira had used an improvised weapon to steal the clothes and cattle prod of Aunt Elizabeth, and fled under the disguise of an Aunt. This story spread throughout the ranks of Handmaids: “Moira was out there somewhere…Moira had power now, she’d been set loose, she’d set herself loose. She was now a loose woman. I think we found this frightening. Moira was like an elevator with open sides. She made us feel dizzy…Moira was our fantasy” (133). This story had given hope to all of the Handmaids, and they now knew that escape was possible. Offred fantasized of pulling off her own escape attempt, but was it was put off when the Commander showed signs of affection towards her.