Category Archives: Parts XI-XV and Historical Notes

The Harsh Ending

All I hope for is  for a second book. I need to know why she was taken, what is going to happen to her. Is she really pregnant or not?

But as for the rest of the chapters before that.

Even if men were sterile, in Gilead that was a forbidden word. Only women could commit the crime of not being able to bare children. Either they could or could not. But then Serena Joy plants in this possibility onto Offred’s head. “Maybe he can’t.”(204) and in this moment, Offred knows that this could be true. “Maybe you should try another way, another man.”(205). I believe that because of the commander’s age he just can not get her pregnant as easily as a younger man could. That can happen right? She is then offered by the same Serena Joy, to have intercourse with Nick, he is much younger, maybe he can do in ways the commander lacks. Offred feels like this is betrayal, to the commander, but also she can see the desperation in Serena’s eyes. She wants a baby, she wants a kid. No one will know if Offred stays quiet. She has even agreed to show Offred a picture of her daughter and a cigarette and a match. Dangerous thing to give a handmaid a match. She could start a fire, that could be a way to escape.

Now I do want to talk about these arranged marriages. “Even though some of them are no more than Fourteen.”(219) These teenagers are put into these arranged marriages and the thing is that they will not even know what life was before. There is no way of them rebelling like the women are now. It will just be like second nature to them. It has been said that it has also become a way for women to remain safe, they will not have to raise a child by themselves and they will not have to work, so that way they can only focus on their biological duties, to reproduce and raise the young ones.

I want to come on to my favorite moment in which Offred sees Moira at the club that the commander takes her to. “Then I see her. Moira. She’s standing with two other women, I have to look hard, again to make sure it’s really her.”(238) Moira has not been around since she escaped earlier on in the book. No one knew if she did it successfully, I believe Janine had said that she dies. It is all a little foggy by now.

As for the ending of the book, Gilead was made to better the declining population. I think that it also had to do with men having power and women being oppressed. The typical stereotype of men doing the hard work and women staying in the house to birth children and stay home.

One thing that I had never liked was the fact that women were not allowed to read or do any work. it is like all those years of gender equality just did not happen.

Gilead Changes People

Gilead, once known as America; changed dramatically. Women are seen as tools to make children and men of high standing “abuse” their powers. Offred is a good example who changed. Pre-Gilead, she was a mother and her family meant the world to her. Following the death of the president and literally the world itself, Gilead’s laws categorizes women of lower standards into groups where they either serve men or serve in the colonies.

Offred once determined to find her daughter, now is conflicted between who she truly loves. Does she love the commander, Luke or Nick? This confusion has her thinking things very differently and doesn’t know what to do anymore.

Moira, another person who changed post-Gilead, was not changed for the good either. She was a lesbian and in Gilead, that is frown upon and can lead to death. In chapter 38, Moira was never seen again afterwards. “I don’t know how she ended, or even if she did, because I never saw her again” (Atwood 250). Moira was sent to a prostitution instead of the colonies. She didn’t want to be worked to death and saw clips of the colonies and how badly women were treated there. Even saying that she saw Offred’s mother, who was once a proud woman who believed in her rights. Moira’s will and her beliefs were shattered and maybe even died proud as a woman.

No Excessive Feminist Sentimentality in The Handmaid’s Tale

This is our last response for the Handmaid’s tale. I hate the oppressive, claustrophobic nature of this book, the fear and paranoia it engenders in me; not knowing when and where they are going to strike!, but knowing that they must strike and will!…. when we least expect it. When they do strike it will come as a relief. There! Here it comes!, Let us endure it and be done with it! One way or the other! The anticipation is worse than the event!

I am thinking about the theme of Feminism in The Handmaid’s Tale. Is it time for a confession on my part? ……Whenever I hear the word Feminism mentioned, the room starts to get stuffy and I find myself looking for the door….an escape! Why? I wonder to myself. As a guy you cannot win with Feminism, you are going to be guilty one way or the other. Guilty for something you did or would have done, and even if you did not do anything, you are guilty by association like Luke when Offred told him that she had lost both her job and her money: “ I felt as if somebody cut off my feet” (179) . Luke, complete missing the point said: “Hush…You know I’ll always take care of you” (179).

Guys! Lets face it!. Women are the stronger of the sexes and because they are the stronger they can afford to take the back seat, exercise their power from the wings as it were! We guys are delicate creatures, testosterone-driven, power-seeking, as if in compensation for that which we do not have and cannot do. We make wars for our catharasis because we are unable to create life!

Which bring us to The Handmaid’s Tale and the question: Is The Handmaid’s tale a Feminist novel? I thing not! Why? The reader may ask. Well, for one thing, while reading The Handmaid’s tale, I did not find myself looking for the door! That is answer enough for me but not for the reader, so let me elaborate.

The oppression and suffering in The Handmaid’s Tale is directed mainly at women, but the main oppressors are themselves mostly women: the Commander’s wives, the Aunts and the Marthas show scant compassion for their fellow women, who just happen to be Handmaids. Those women oppressors were The Republic of Gilead version of the Jewish Kapo: they thought first and foremost about their own survival, the commonality of their gender with that of the oppressed meant nothing to them. No false Feminist sentimentality here! We’re out for number one!, plain and simple!. The aim is to survive and the means justify the end…..to die of old age!.

The Aunts in “The Handmaid’s Tale” are the petty functionaries without whom The republic of Gilead would not have been possible: “Aunt Elizabeth standing by the double doors, arms folded, cattle prod hung on her belt, while Aunt Lydia strides along the rows of kneeling nightgowned women, hitting our backs, or feet or bums or arms lightly..”(194). The use of the word “cattle prod” here is significant. The narrator used the word to emphasize the impersonal industrialization of human reproduction in Gilead. Like chickens in a Chicken Broiler, the individualities, personalities and feelings of the Handmaids were of little to no consequence, beyond that which was needed of them to fulfill their roles as walking wombs.

Of womans inhumanity to woman:The Handmaids were shamelessly indoctrinated by their fellow women, the Aunts, as only women could have known how to manipulate other women: “What we prayed for was emptiness, so we would be worthy to be filled: with grace, with love, with self-denial, semen and babies.”(194). Ignorance was a virtue: “Knowing was a temptation, What you don’t know won’t tempt you” (195) and emotions frowned upon:“Love, said Aunt Lydia with distaste. Don’t let me catch you at it” (220)

 

 

This is it?

After I finished reading the “The Handmaids Tale” by Margaret Atwood I was shocked about how it ened with so many questions unanswered and when they were it just brought on more questions. An example is when Nick comes in to get Offred with the member of the Eyes and tells Offred that they are part of the mayday. ”I expect a stranger, but it’s Nick who pushes open the door, flicks on the light. I can’t place that, unless he’s one of them. (293) I asked myself was Nick part the of eye all along or was he actually part of the resistance force. Was any of his interactions with Offred legit or was he just spying on her for the government?

When reading the final chapters of the story  acknowledging the belief of the Commander on what he obtained from the republic and Gilead and what he wants in the relationship with Offred had me bewildered.

Offred and the commander is having a conversation and the commander was speaking about why he created Gilead. This paragraph alone “I’m not talking about sex he, he says. That was part of it, the sex was too easy….. You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel” (210).He wanted to bring about some sort of idealistic view of sex that had no real world application. He wanted to have sex pure of sinful thoughts based on his religion and somehow it would create a morally honest sex culture in this society but it didn’t workout that way at all.  Another cliffhanger at the end of the story is the relationship between Offred and The Commander. From the previous chapter it looked like the The Commander cared about Offred but when she was being taken away by the Eyes they seemed to turn on her worrying that she would betray them. ”Bitch, she says. After all he did for you (294). Before it looked as if Serena Joy was the one who called the Eye on Offred. But after you see the way they both react to her getting taken away they seem to be scared that they would talk about all the rules they broke. This makes you question who call them or if Nick is actually part of the mayday and there to safe Offred. 

Throughout the entire story we are told that the sole purpose of the handmaid is to bear children and nothing more. They are basically stripped of everything and the commander says the line ” the sex was too easy” (210). “The inability to feel” (210), what he helped try to fight against is exactly what he got in the end because he did not really understand how people in society view sex. The lines “Kissing is forbidden between us. This makes it bearable. One detaches oneself” (95) literally says that she has to remove her feelings entirely just to get the job done. So it shows he couldn’t have known how disconnected this job that the handmaidens would have made them to the people that they work for.

Ray of Hope

The final chapters of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was a page turner, with unexpected twists at every corner. I was left with mixed feelings about this ending of the tale. On one hand I obviously was frustrated due to the cliff hanger at the end of the novel, but on the other I couldn’t believe that she had the opportunity to be free. Her possible freedom was an event I was anticipating for the entire novel, and I was stunned when the author abruptly ending the novel on a open note. At least it wasn’t as disappointing as the end of the ‘Sopranos’, when it ended mid scene.

What was most strange to me was the appearance of the “new” Ofglen, “And of course she is, the new one, and Ofglen, wherever she is, is no longer Ofglen” (283). She soon told Offred what had really happened to Ofglen, ” She hanged herself,” she says. “After the Salvaging. She saw the van coming for her. It was better” (285). This all seems so strange and a little doubtful that Ofglen just hung herself. I think that she might be alive, because new Ofglen can have easily been lied to. On the other hand, Ofglen could have possibly have planned an escape along with Nick. There is so much that could have happened, maybe this is exactly what the author wanted, to have us guessing what really happened to the protagonist. The last couple of pages in the novel are the ‘Historical Notes’ where the author makes the reader wonder about these stories, because according to notes 30 tapes are discovered. They could be real stories or they could be false, but it is very extraordinary that something like this could have been real, mostly during the Gilead era.

I was so excited for Offred, though it was unclear of her future, she finally had some light of hope. Here last words in the novel were, “Whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing: I have given myself over into the hands of strangers, because it can’t be helped” (295). Finally, she was risking everything for her daughter, her husband, her past life, because she was no longer the wimp that Moira always called her, but then again it’s not like she planned or decided this on her own, she was forced and ordered. Yet does it matter how this happened as long as there is a chance to escape such misery. I really appreciated how the author developed Offred towards the final pages, it is notable that Offred said, “I’m tired of this melodrama, I’m tired of keeping silent. There’s no one you can protect, your life has value to no one. I want it finished.” (293). Yes, finally Offred has evolved from somebody that was constantly treated like a, “two-legged wombs”, now she has a chance. The author doesn’t end the novel on a comforting, he makes the ending more realistic, I don’t know what will happen to the characters, all I can do is hope like Offred that everything will end on a happy note.  

 

Moira’s Greatness

In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Moira is an amazing character, an example of a different type of woman when comparing to other women in the story.The first action of Moira being amazing character is the fact she took down an aunt, that no one in this story has done so far. Even Offred compare Moira to herself, and Offred felt she was lacking in every aspect.  Moira show she capable person in post-Gilead world. 

Before Moira attempted to escape the center, she had done one thing that no other character in story did before that is tie up Aunt Elizabeth. Moira told Offred that “I left that old hag Aunt Elizabeth tied up like a Christmas turkey behind the furnace.” (244) that is amazing the fact she uses her strength to take-down the aunt and then tie her up like Christmas turkey is enough to be amazing character. This example of strong woman.

When Offred compare herself to Moira, she feels lacking because she doesn’t have this greatness when looking at Moira’s actions to escape. Offred thoughts “I expect her to, with my idea of her courage, live through, act it out, when myself do not?” (249) Offred is questioning herself does she have the courage to live the way Moira did when she try to escape. Offred does want to be different when comparing to Moira “I don’t want her to be like. Given, go along, save her skin. That is what it comes down to. I want gallantry from her, swashbuckling, heroism, single-handed combat. Something I lack.” (249) According to Offred she doesn’t want to give in or save her skin meaning she doesn’t want just abandon her daughter or Luke just escape by herself like way Moira did, but she wants the courage that Moira displayed which she refers as heroism, gallantry, swashbuckling, single-handed combat. Offred does feel lacking comparing to Moira, but Offred doesn’t want to leave behind her daughter is only difference.

Moira is quite of a unique character to be in post-Gilead, she is capable. Before she left the center, the icing on the cake to tie Aunt Elizabeth like Christmas turkey was genius. Offred describe Moira had this courage that she lacked even going as far say it was heroism. Moira is a type of character that make this story feel alive from her action from trying to escape and her crazy actions.

The acts of rebelling

Reading the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood shows many signs of rebelling. The protagonist Offred reveals multiple signs of rebelling against Gilead. Offred lives in a world where women who have a high possibility to get pregnant become sex workers for high ranking men in order to repopulate the earth. This how the government of Gilead operates with one of their laws. Offred throughout the the novel wishes she could escape, have negative thoughts about the government and its people and more. These are some of the signs of rebelling against Gilead. Through Offreds acts of rebelling against Gilead will affect her feelings towards herself and towards Gilead and its people.

The secret password given to Offred so she may use it when she needs to to who is part of the rebellion. Offred has a friend who is also a Handmaid like her, Ofglen. Throughout the novel we didn’t know much about her except that she has a close bond with Offred. Later in the novel, Ofglen reveals herself as part of the resistance to free women and fight against the Gilead government. The two of them always discuss subjects that are taboo in Gilead. During one of their outings Ofglen gives a password to Offred to use, “Mayday.” Ofglen explains, “Don’t use it unless you have to,…It isn’t good for us to know about too many of the others, in the network. In case you get caught,” (202). The use of this password is a double edge sword. Offred can use it to know others from the resistance however if someone of the Gilead government knows about it, it will back fire. When she returns home from her outing, she spots another secret message from Nick. Nick is the personal driver for the family he works for. Nick communicates to Offred by showing his crooked hat. This message explains her secret meeting with the commander, the man who she has to sleep with to get pregnant. Offred now knows two different passwords or messages that are signs of a  rebellion towards Gilead: Mayday, and Nick’s hat. As times passes by, Offred will lose her fear of rebellious ways and continue them.

Offred may break Gileads laws of not sleeping with the commander, but with Nick in order to get pregnant for her own goals. When Offred returns from her outing, she enters in a conversation with Serena Joy, the commander’s wife. She explains to Offred that she has to get pregnant soon because her time of staying in the house is about to end. She believes that the commander is most likely sterile since he can’t impregnate Offred. She claims that Offred should have sex with Nick in order to have a baby. Offred is shocked to hear that Serena Joy suggests it (204-205). This demonstrates that Serena Joy is rebelling against Gilead laws in so she can have the baby in the end. This is also a way to save Offred’s life, because if she can’t get pregnant then there is a chance that Gilead will kill Offred. Serena Joy believes that Offred won’t do because Offred must obey Gilead. Offred hides that fact so she can eagerly rebel against Gilead.

These are just in many times that Offred shows signs of her desire to rebel against Gilead. She hates Gilead and the people who follow their rules. Before these scenes and after, Offred rebels the government and its people by sharing her thoughts about breaking multiple laws and making plans to escape Gilead. Her feelings of rebelling makes her stronger by having hope of a better tomorrow and to hope to escape.

tables turn

And so, the ending has come with The Handmaid’s Tale. And, to be completely honest, I did not like how the story ended. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but, I definitely was not expecting it to finish the way that it did. It was eh, that’s the best way that I am able to describe it. I did, however, enjoy the turn the commander had. Who would have thought?! The man that seemed to have/feel zero emotions towards women, even his own wife, AND prevented such emotional intimacy, was the one that desired it the most. The commander seems to have wanted a real relationship along with real emotions that went both ways, he wanted it to mean something, he did not care if it had a title (such as marriage etc.,) or not. “I’m not talking about sex, he says. that was part of I, the sex was too easy. anyone could just buy it. there was nothing to work for, nothing to fight for. we have the stats from that time. you know what they were complaining about the most? inability to feel.”(201) This is something I was not expecting to read about from the commander, he is without a doubt the character that surprised me the most from this novel, I wonder what happens to him in the future. I do recall writing a previous post about the relationship between the commander and Offred, I had a feeling it would somehow transition into something, even if it leads to them not ending up together, the writer showed us how far and comfortable they became with each other, especially the commander himself.

Offred did not change much, as for how I expected, I was hoping she would stop thinking of the past so much and focus more on her future and what she has yet accomplished. It was a bit disappointing that she still seemed confused about the men in her life, she wanted nick at the end and felt a little something for the commander and yet, still thought about Luke. But, overall Offred seemed to have lived through a lot, she experienced so many awful and good things that hopefully she ended up finding happiness in the long run, and, the love of her life. Most importantly hopefully she found herself as well, now that she was free and was no longer under any rules and no longer a handmaid!  (Even though she broke some rules anyways, go Offred!) 

An Interesting Ending

After I finished reading the “The Handmaids Tale” by Margaret Atwood I was left with more questions than answers. For instance when Nick comes in to get Offred with other member of the Eyes and tells Offred that they are part of the mayday. ”I expect a stranger, but it’s Nick who pushes open the door, flicks on the light. I can’t place that, unless he’s one of them. (293) I was left asking was Nick part the eye along or was he actually part of the resistance. Were any of his interactions with Offred or was he just spying on her.

Another cliffhanger at the end of the story is the relationship between Offred and The Commander. From the previous chapter it looked like the The Commander cared about Offred but when she was being taken away by the Eyes they seemed to turn on her worrying that she would betray them. ”Bitch, she says. After all he did for you (294). Before it looked as if Serena Joy was the one who called the Eye on Offred. But after you see the way they both react to her getting taken away they seem to be scared that they would talk about all the rules they broke. This makes you question who call them or if Nick is actually part of the mayday and there to safe Offred.

When Offred was waiting for the Van to come I thought that she would hang herself just like Ofglen.  But she did not and that showed me that maybe Offred is not the hero in this book and that she’s not as strong as Ofglen. “Fatigue is here, in my body, in my legs and eyes. That is what gets you in the end. Faith is only a word, embroidered” (292) I’m left to think why didn’t Offred just end it like Ofglen. Did she believe that there was hope out there or was she just to coward to take her own life or beg to the Commander?

Even the last line was a cliff hanger. “And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light. (295) that line makes you think of all the endless possibilities. Does she die or is Nick there actually to save here. Does the Commander somehow get out of the trouble? You just imagine that your Offred and you don’t know what’s about to happen but you hope for the best.

The only thing that was not a cliffhanger at the end was that you see every one of the character break the laws one way or another. You see how all these laws have no effect and all it does is bring fear into the people. What’s interesting is the fact that the top Commanders don’t even seem to try to keep the rule of Law in Gilead. It’s as they are trying to see the country fail and overlook the people breaking the laws. Even Serena Joy does not seem to care about the laws as she had the option of turning Offred in but she never did.