In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the world controlled by Gilead oppresses women of their freedom. Gilead only views women who have the potential to procreate with as mere flesh. For Offred, the main protagonist, it has been difficult for her. She doesn’t have the right to be able to do simple things for herself, like to own lotion for her skin, and people disrespect her for the role as a Handmaid.
Offred remembers when she was young about an interview of a woman wearing heavy make-up, this influences her thoughts about the commander. Recently the commander has been acting strangely towards Offred. As if the commander starts to care about Offred’s feelings. She suddenly recalls a moment of watching a documentary about World War II that she saw as a child. Offred mostly remembers the documentary about a mistress of a Nazi concentration-camp supervisor. The mistress said she had no knowledge about the mass extermination taking place next to her home. The old mistress, wearing a lot of make-up at the time, responds in the interview that her lover wasn’t a monster. Offred mostly remembers how sweet and kind the Nazis was behaving. A couple of days after the interview the mistress commits suicide. Offred mostly remembers the make-up (145-146). Offred has strong memories about having make-up or lotion before Gilead. This items hold a strong importance to her. She really cares about keeping her appearance, this recalls in chapter 17 when Offred uses butter as lotion for her face. The documentary seems to be used as an anecdote to warn Offred about the commander. No matter how the person may appear outside, they are different person inside. The commander may be nice to now, but later can be different. This shows how people can treat the Handmaids very poorly.
Offred receives lotion from the commander as requested, the commander soon realizes that Offred isn’t allowed to have such things in her room. When Offred is alone with the commander in their third meeting. Offred requests if she may have lotion for his face. She later explains that she used butter before as lotion. The commander found it funny. “Butter, he said, musing. That’s very clever. Butter. He laughed. I could have slapped him,” (159). Offred is very irradiated by what the commander said. This represents important make-up or lotion is for Offred. She wants keep up her appearances but she can not do so with Gilead interfering with their rules. This shows in the society of Gilead that they have no empathy towards Handmiads and that their don’t understand their feelings towards Gilead.Print this page