Category Archives: Parts III-VIII

The Good Doctor

In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the main protagonist Offred while visiting the clinic for check-up, she meet a unique doctor. The doctor is down to earth, admitting there are sterile man within a country that consider that is not officially. The doctor offers to impregnate her, so she can bear a child and be safe from execution by the law. This act is risky because it against the law, but this doctor is good person willing to help her because he is risking himself as well.

This doctor that Offred talks to in the clinic seem to be more down to Earth than the rest of the people in this country. The doctor said “Most of those old guys can’t make it anymore,” (61) he follows up with “Or they’re sterile” (61) in a country where the word sterile is forbidden that is big thing to do for doctor. Even Offred’s response “I almost gasp: he’s said a forbidden word” (61) this doctor is academic knowledgeable because he knows that there are women who can bear children and those can’t bear a child, and he know there are men who are either not sterile or sterile. In a country where officially, a sterile man doesn’t exist and only women that are either fruitful or barren, he is willing say there are sterile man in secret is big thing, so he is down to Earth knowing what real and fake.

The doctor is very kind person because he is willing to put himself in danger to help these handmaids because if the guardians discovers what he been doing, he be dead. Offred mention “I hesitate. He’s offering himself to me, his services, at risk to himself” (61) there are some risk to the doctor impregnating a handmaid in order to help them to fake having a bear a child with the commander that is maybe sterile. In a sense this is genuine sympathy because if he wanted intercourse I’m pretty sure his wife would do it, but since he willing help these handmaids at the risk he could be caught means death. This shows he is a good person that isn’t in for the intercourse to help these handmaids because he put himself in danger by doing so.

This doctor is interesting person to come across in this dystopian country, he is not doctor in for intercourse with these handmaids because if he was caught he be killed. People can think the doctor want intercourse in exchange a handmaid get impregnated, but in a dystopian setting the sense of rights and wrongs are out the door already. It the decision for the handmaids to make do they want die because their commander is actually sterile, and the higher-ups doesn’t want admit the truth not everything in the bribe is true, or do they want to live by having a child with a stranger. Even thou Offred rejected the offer, he told Offred to come back next month if she change her mind, he giving Offred a decision to save herself or die. We know Janine would do it for sure with doctor!

Women in society

In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, in parts III-VIII we see a little more into the society of Gilead and how women are regarding. I think for me and other students it has been impactful the way certain actions in the novel take place and are regarded as nothing, or in certain situations the women’s fault. I mean of course of the way these Handmaids are being brainwashed into believing they are indeed a tool to be used over and over again with no regard to what she thinks or feels. The way men have gotten away with rape, and making these women believe it is their fault. The way these women suffer the same and see the same madness taking place but they are all thought to think it is normal. The way they suffer “Last week, Janine burst into tears. Aunt Helena made her kneel at the front of the classroom, hands behind her back, where we could all see her, her red face and dripping nose. Her hair dull blond, her eyelashes so light they seemed not there, the lost eyelashes of someones who’s been in a fire.. none of us wanted to look like that, ever. For a moment, even though we knew what was being done to her, we despised her. Crybaby. Crybaby. Crybaby (Atwood 72)

It is also interesting to see the little bits of memories that Offred has of her past. The things she misses the most, like the changes she had to read and write. The way things looked before and how chairs were set up. The moments she has flashbacks are little moments of peace in the storm of what she is going through. How she has memories in the moments where one would think is suppose to be a moment of pleasure but it is rather just an obligation, Therefore I lie still and picture the unseen canopy over my head. I remember Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughter: Close your eyes and think of England. But this is not England. I wish he would hurry up (Atwood 94)

These women have been going through a lot and it will only be time until we see whether this society will fall on itself and it will all be a horrible piece of history like we have today, or there will be no rescuing and no hope to be had for any of these women. The novel so far is very interesting and as I have mentioned before has a 1984 similarity which I like. The sense of being watched at all times no matter where you are. The feeling that you are not safe even in your own thoughts is something very scaring that we as Americans have had the freedom to think and say as we please. This I think is a privilege that many of us take for granted every single day,

Butter is Hope

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is unwinding and revealing the uglier side of a Handmaid’s life, exclusively through Offred’s thoughts and heartbreaking memories.

Hope

I think the saddest part I read from this week’s assigned parts was reading of how Offred stole a small portion of butter from her bland meal and moisturized her face with the melted remnants. She saved this small piece of butter in her shoe, smuggling it under the eyes she constantly feels and knows are watching her. This act symbolized the hopeful fire still burning within her; fueling her with small amounts of optimism that she would see the day she’d be thankful she kept her skin oiled and replenished. “As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out…be touched again, in love or desire”, (Atwood 97). We also see “hope” in other forms; the hope and anticipation for a Handmaid to bear the Wive’s and Commander’s children and be “fruitful”; Offred’s hopes that her daughter is still breathing; the hope living within every Handmaid to never see red coming from their bodies, as this symbolizes failure. The color Red takes on a darker definition in this way as it alludes to a miscarriage of the fetus; a horrific result for any Handmaid.

“Cleansing” and Betrayal

Offered’s flashbacks of Aunt Lydia and her discrete encounters with Moira occur at the “Red Center” where the Handmaid’s are figuratively put into washing machines; reeducated and conditioned through religious views that prepare and resize them before taking on their new, vital roles in the Gilead society. These women are not only plucked of their old ways and forced into the constrictions that from now on would be permanently placed on them, but they are also programmed into being against their former lifestyles. Through these extremely religious teachings, they are instructed to repent, or “testify” regarding previous traumatic experiences like rape; taught to believe that women are the cause of men who rape. “Her fault, her fault, her fault”, the Handmaid’s chant as Janine recounts her past gang rape experience on page 73. This scene was sickening to read, as they were basically practicing “slut-shaming” and instilling within each other that being a women alone is cause for being raped. (“Slut-shaming” is a contemporary term that is defined in the Oxford Living Dictionary as: The action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative). Eventually these women succumb to the taunting shame and assimilate in believing that they deserved to be rape victims, as a way to relieve them of the brutal punishments for any women not willing to conform.

The Ceremony

Reading through the slow paced scene of the ceremony left my mouth agape as I couldn’t believe how they carried out the act of impregnating the Handmaids. Offred recounts almost every aspect of the scene as she acknowledges random details like the rug, the brass box near the Commander’s chair, the distinct aroma of tobacco that drifts into the “sitting room” along with the Wife, who Offred always refers to by Serena Joy; solely in her thoughts of course. I believe this is Offred’s way of preparing for the act that was to follow; the pleasureless act of fornication, (barely), between Offred and the Commander. While this act was absent of intimacy completely, it also wasn’t rape: “Nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for…This is what I chose”, (Atwood 94). The Wife fulfills yet another purposeless position as she sits opposite the Commander near Offred’s head, grasping her hands. This was “serious business”; no feelings or personal attachments. Procreation is now a large business and the Handmaid’s were the workers; volunteered unwillingly and exploited for what they were able to do with their bodies. Treated exactly like “containers”, the value they held only existed inside them; specifically in their wombs.

Below is a better explanation of the term “slut-shaming” for those who were unfamiliar with the context of it:

“Some examples of circumstances wherein women are slut-shamed include violating dress code policies by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control,having premarital, casual, or promiscuous sex, engaging in prostitution,or when being victim blamed for being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted.” 

Cited From:

Wikipedia contributors. “Slut-shaming.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Nov. 2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017.

The Eyes Will Forever Watch Us

This book is getting so good I am towards the end of it already!!!

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood parts III – VIII will be discussed in this post.

During the night, when Offred aka June has all the time in the world to wonder in her room, she likes to think of her old life, her past. How things were before it all started. She likes to think of times of when she and Moira would hang out. They used to talk about paper dues and stuff like that. “In half an hour, I said. I had a paper due the next day. “(37).  June used to work in a publishing house, which she enjoyed very much, nothing compared to life now.

“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) 

In this life, her name is Offred. She thinks to herself a lot, she speaks to herself in the confinement of her own mind where no one else will hear. These times are tough for someone who used to be so independent, someone who worked for herself, who used to write papers and read them over and over and over again. She rather tell stories to herself because in a way that is not forbidden, Writing is forbidden, and she dare not even look at a pen. She envies those who can do so. Because being able to write and read means to have some sort of freedom. Women can’t, Handmaid’s can’t. They are trapped in this era that prevents them from doing any work that may improve their brain skills and make them independent again.

Apart from Handmaids and Marthas there are Econowives, for those who don’t have enough money i guess.

“The mother; she carries a small black jar. From the size of the jar you can tell how old it was when it foundered, inside her, flowed to its death. Two or three months, too young to tell whether or not it was an Unbaby. The older ones and those that die at birth have boxes.” (44)

Birth rates are very low in this place. Either they cannot procreate or miscarriages happen. Population has been declining for a while and those who suspect are pregnant are cared for to make sure the baby survives. This is why Handmaids are there. To give these families babies that they cannot create themselves. But of course it hurts them every time, It is like getting your hopes up and then getting them crushed. If a handmaid has a miss carriage, it is automatically her fault.

“We pause out of respect, while they go by. I wonder if Ofglen feels what I do, pain like a stab, in the belly. 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) 

I do not know exactly why they do not like the handmaids, but I do know that Marthas do not like the handmaids because they think that they are degrading themselves. Something like a “streetwalker” for better wording.

“Nick looks up and begins to whistle. Then he says,”Nice walk?” I nod, but do not answer with my voice. He isn’t supposed to speak to me. “(45)

Nick is the driver I believe, He is something else as well, he seems fishy to me but that will be left for another part. Men are not supposed to speak to the handmaids unless it is their commander. I think Nick is intrigued by Offred. He wants to know her, he is lonely and now he sees this woman who is not the wife of the commander and who in a way replies to him. Will he try something more?

Every month a handmaid has to go to the doctor to get tested for pregnancy and disease. While she is undressed at the doctor’s office, from waist down with a paper covering her from waist up, the doctor makes her an interesting proposal.

“I could help you, I’ve helped others. The door is locked. No one will come in. They’ll never know it isn’t his.” (60)

There has been stories told about how things like this happen because the commanders are sterile or something similar. Even though the word sterile is forbidden to say or even think about. They usually just blame the handmaid. They rather blame them for not getting pregnant than for the man not being able to. I think that that is just simply unfair for these women to be blamed for something that they have no control of. They do not even have a choice nor opinion in this matter. They get used for their wombs and who knows what they do to her afterwards.

After a handmaid gives birth, the commander’s wives are in control of the names. Janine had a beautiful baby girl and her commander’s wife named the baby Angela. Everyone is happy because of the arrival of this baby.

“”Maybe we have one, soon.” She says, shyly. By we she means me. Cora depends on me, she hopes, and I am the vehicle of her hope.”(135)

Every house patiently awaits for a handmaid that can give them a baby. These women look like as if they are desperate to have this baby in their arms. Maybe if Offred gets pregnant, everyone in that house will be happy and smile more often. It all sounds so depressing. By Offred having a healthy child, Cora hopes to spoil him or her someday. The thought of a little kid around is something that they die for.

Restrictions

Upon reading Parts III-VIII, it was clear to me how restrictive women’s lives were in the current situation. The handmaid’s were not permitted to read at all, which would drastically change one’s perspective on viewing everyday things. To read was forbidden, and during the ceremony the handmaids were permitted to watch the news when Serena turned on the TV. In such conditions, I wouldn’t doubt if everything depicted on the TV was either fake or skewed in such a way to alter the way the women at the center think. Offred also briefly mentioned the possibility of drugs in the food, which I believe could explain the very small amount of people trying to “break out.”

It becomes more clear that women, especially handmaids are just looked upon as “tools” and not people equally as everyone else. What confuses me is the fact that Offred vaguely says that she chose this decision or life, and now she has to live with it until Luke can save her. Such restrictions she has “agreed” to completely control all aspects of her current life. She states that, “–songs are not sung anymore in public, especially the ones that use words like free. They are considered too dangerous.” (54) This shows that she has no real power over even her own decisions at the center. The situation with Janine also shows how skewed everyones perceptions are at the center. Janine may have quite possibly been the victim, but the Aunts made sure she blamed it on her self, as did everyone else. The handmaids changed “Her fault, her fault, her fault.” (72) They seem to do much chanting of ideas or beliefs that must be burned into their minds. Janine eventually says, “it was my own fault, I led them on. I deserved the pain.” (72) I believe many conflicts are solved like this at the center.

I find the small flashbacks or memories Offred has to be interesting. Small items, such as remember that a desk had an armwrest for students to write on, the accidental showing of signs with text on the TV, and face lotion all had small connections to her past. Now, handmaids are not permitted to write or read so she always gets reminded about memories in her past when she gets the opportunity to read/write. Any man who she comes into even the slightest non-customary attention of also seems to remind her of her husband Luke.

The Oppression Games

 

In “The Handmaiden’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood the Republic of Gilead expose  women to oppression wherever they go and it is reinforced by certain individuals who would benefit from their oppression, basically the government wants women to be mindless, thoughtless beings who are essentially slaves. One quote that shocked me was that how even women can profit off of rape instead of helping others thru there issues.”Its Janine, telling about how she was gang-raped at fourteen and had an abortion.” (71)In this society when something happens to a woman is it always the woman’s fault? The reaction of Aunt Helena answers this question when she asks this question. ” But whose fault was it? Aunt Helena says , holding up one plump finger” (72) everyone in the crowd agrees and repeats “Her fault . She did” (72). 

 

To further the point of oppression Offred is treated just like a sex object, a human flesh-light in chapter 16 by the Commanders. “I do not say making love, because this is not what he’s doing.” But interestingly Offred does not consider this rape as she chose to be Handmaid and she seems fine with this life. “Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for” (94) What’s interesting is how she believes this is not rape at all, just a job to do. Why does she not see that society is raping her of her future, free will and respect by having a job that requires you to be a slave.  She even tries to stay on the positive side of things. “At least he’s an improvement on the previous one, who smelled like a church cloakroom in the rain” (95) We see how the sex is her duty is not allowed to intimate with each other. “Kissing is forbidden between us. This makes it bearable.” (95)This shows something into the mentality of the Commander’s as they tell her that the job she has is a privilege but treat her like a prostitute in the street before they go home to their wives.

But what interests me the most is how Offred has a flashback of the past where time where more normal to our everyday life like homework. “What’s your paper on? I just did one on date rape” (38) Offred’s flashback shows the past how it was like and what moments she took for granted which in this dystopian state is probably something more common than a paper for class. We see how she jokes about this topic of women’s issue because she believes the world is trying to be a better place for everyone. “Date rape, I said. You’re so trendy. It sounds like some kind of dessert. Date rape.”(38) With this these quotes we see the shift in the country of Gilead has become one that tried to fight for women’s rights to one that batters and oppresses woman to the point where they can not be anything but what the country needs. With everything going against woman how can one change the country when the natural fundamentals of revolution is being choked by an authoritarian rule over the land.

A Woman or A Tool?

Having read through the latest chapters of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I get the impression of the handmaid’s being less of a person and more of a tool of use even though they were originally people who had lives that anyone else would’ve had if it were in our world. They were people who had the right to live the life they wanted, until that right was taken away and they were forced to live

In the Republic of Gilead, the women are always exposed to the oppression of women where ever they go, whether its in the homes the are currently staying in to anywhere as far as the eye could see. If something happened to a woman, than the fault falls upon the woman which is made apparent when Aunt Helena throws in her two cents and says ” But whose fault was it? Aunt Helena says , holding up one plump finger” (72) with everyone around going along and repeats “Her fault . She did” (72). The chant that everyone says also encourages this mentality you are now a tool which leads the Janine breaking down mentally. So not only does this encourage breaking people so that they are easier to manipulate, it also encourages people to be do the same and also harass people till they break mentally.

When it comes to Offred, she isn’t any different from the rest of the handmaid’s when it comes to being a once free woman to being a more submissive or “broken” person compared to what she used to be to some degree. When she is going to the commanders office she feels like “A child who’s been summoned, at school, to the principal’s office. What have I done wrong?” (136). Its as if Offred had reverted to a child mentality. Instead of believing that she was called in to the office for a chat or a game, she believes that she got herself into trouble and is being brought in for punishment at first. When she finds out that she was called in for a game of scrabble she thinks ” Now of course it’s something different. Now it’s forbidden, for us. Now it’s dangerous. Now it’s indecent. Now it’s something he can’t do with his wife. Now he’s desirable. Now he’s compromised himself. It’s as if he’s offered me drugs” (138~139). The mentality of being submissive has been hammered into the handmaid’s to the point where things that were once people did for entertainment had become a drug for them.

When everyone was chanting “Her fault” and ” She did” to Janine, the ones that were chanting were actually enjoying the bullying that they were giving to Janine. By doing so not only do they discourage others from being themselves, they also encourage people to do the same whenever someone brings up anything against men. Just like what would happen in a school when there is a bully harassing a student. The bully gets enjoyment out of harassing the student, the people around the bully also enjoy it, but instead of the school punishing the bully for harassing, the school is actually encouraging the bully to do it.

The Gender Roles in Society

In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood we continue to see how gender plays a major factor in society. Even the word that we use has an effect on gender. One example is the difference between lay and laid. “Lay is always passive. Even men used to say, I,d like to get laid.”(chp 7) Its interesting to see how gender roles are changing it seems that all that woman fought for during the woman’s suffrage era is gone.

“What’s your paper on? I just did one on date rape” (Chp 7) These moments in Offreds life lets us see how the past was like and what moments she takes for granted. We see how she doesn’t really care about woman’s issue as she jokes about stuff like date rape. “Date rape, I said. You’re so trendy. It sounds like some kind of dessert. Date rape.” These sorts of issues while taken seriously in the past we take for granted the right just to take these issues without being scared of the repercussions. (Chp 7)

We also see how Offred is now ashamed of her own body now. “Shameful, immodest I avoided looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it.” (Chp 12) At this moment we see that Offred has lost the will in to believe in herself as she see her own body immoral and it seems that even the thought of herself seems to disgust her. The new government seems to be winning every day in brainwashing the woman of the new country and making them believe in the new rules and laws.

We truly see the way the Handmaids are just sex objects in chapter 16. “I do not say making love, because this is not what he’s doing.” But interestingly Offred does not consider this rape as she chose to be Handmaid and she seems fine with this life. “Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for” (chp 12) Interestingly we see how she is even a littler relieved because at least this commander does not smell, as bad as the previous Commander who she was with. “At least he’s an improvement on the previous one, who smelled like a church cloakroom in the rain” (chp 16) We see how the lovemaking is a job and they are not allowed to get attached to each other. “Kissing is forbidden between us. This makes it bearable.” (chp 16)

Another interesting way we see gender roles have a part in this world is we see the jealousy that Serena Joy has towards Offred. Serna Joy is quick to make Offred leave after she has finished her duty as a handmaid. “Serena Joy lets go of my hands. “You can get up now, “she says. “Get up and get out.”(Chp 16) We see how see seems threatened by Offred but Offred seems to  understand how she feels. “Which of us it worse for her or me?” (Chp 16) Offred feels compassion for Serena Joy but the feeling that doesn’t go both ways.

I know A Few Things, But I Have One Question

In The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

It seems like Ignorance is bliss In the Republic of Gilead. I have come to realize this on page [8], when Offred says “I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed. There’s a lot that doesn’t bear thinking about. Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last.” As if, the sign of intelligence in women is forbidding. I know that Offred, herself, did not said that thought is forbidding, but her saying “Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last” [8]. Let’s me know that In order to survive women must not think, but to just do what is told to them.

As, I continue with this story, I had realize that they don’t allow women to read. Instead of using words in signs, they only use pictures as signs. Even their coins are nothing, but mere pictures to show what they are used for.This is shown when Offred is listening to Rita while she tell her what she must get from the store and When Rita is through with the list of things, She hands Offred the money. Then Offred says “I take the tokens from Rita’s outstretched hand. They have pictures on them, of things they can be exchanged for” [11]. I assumed that the reason why signs with words are replaced by signs with just pictures, is because words can inspire thought which can create the need to overthrow the government that is now Controlling Gilead.This reminds me of what I have learned about the Reconstruction Era. In the Reconstruction Era, slaves where freed and a short time later the Freedmen Bureau had helped ex-slaves to build up schools to educated themselves. Ex-slaves where learning how to read and educating themselves. The southern whites were against ex-slaves learning how to read and becoming educated, because, they felt that by doing so, they would lose even more control of ex-slaves and their own property. In Gilead, that is what it seem like they are doing.They are treating women as property and to keep the women in her place, she can no longer be educated.

It seem like the Government of Gilead wants to turn their women into mindless thoughtless beings who will only do what they are told.To add injury to this insult, all of the citizens of Gilead Uniforms are color coded. As, to say, you are what the color of your clothes represents. I think that all of women colors represents some type of servitude job and can determined everything you do in life and how you should be treated by others. Even something as small as to walking out of the front door or the back door of a house can be determine by the color of a women’s dress. Offred Is a Handmaid and her dress is red. She leaves out the back door to go shopping.

The one thing that slip pass me when reading this story, is, when does the Commander comes into Offred’s room? I understand that she is not suppose to read and there is evidence of that inside the story. I get that she is not suppose to think and I understand why thinking is forbidding, but it seems to skip over when the Commander is with her. I assume that he is with her at night when she is dreaming about her past. I feel this way because on page [52] Offred says “I wanted to feel Luke lying besides me. I have them, these attacks of the past, like faintness, a wave sweeping over my head….They also serve who only stand and wait. Or lie down and wait.” It is like who is she waiting for? Are her dreams being use as a way to keep her mind off of what is happening to her body? Or, maybe, he had came to her when she was dreaming about her daughter? The reason I say this is because when she dreamed of her daughter, her daughter started crying in the dream. Then Offred says “we come apart, my arms are held, and edges go dark and nothing is left but a little window” [75].The whole dream is sad and I wonder is it sad because he is there with her. The part where her daughter and she “comes apart” is that when everything ends? However, On page [37] Offred says “The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet.” But is it really hers or does it belong to her in spirit. Whereas she can fly outside of her body into her own little world.? I guess as I continue on reading they might make it clear as to when the Commander is suppose to see her.

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