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.