The Handmaids Tale Parts I and II

The novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, is about a woman in the red that according to the blur in the back of the book, her name is Offred. She is in the “family” of a very wealthy man and her purpose is to be able to produce a child. She also is allowed outside for a short period of time and isn’t allowed to gain any knowledge. So everything she knows is from memories she has from when she was a child and was free to do as she pleased. The novel is centered around the idea of an oppressive society towards women in an era after the 21st century.

Some of these women that become pregnant seem to take pride in the fact they are being used for reproductive reasons only. This can be verified with a character named Janine, “Janine looks at me, then, and around the corners of her mouth there is the trace of a smirk. She glances down to where my own belly lies flat under the red robe, and the wings cover her face.” (Atwood, 27). This woman is still portraying the same type attitude of feeling better than others through the fact that she is with child, while before this time she would boast some new phone or clothes. Since, in this time there isn’t anything like that, this character uses her child as a form of prize to show off to other females.

The reason why the book takes place after the 21st century or at least a time after technology and “freedom”, because no one is really free, is through a quote, “Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom. Westernized, they used to call it” (Atwood,28). This shows the setting of the book comes into a society where people are stripped of their “freedom” and “rights” but what they really had was a set of “privileges”, that where taking away by someone or a group of people. In this case, the women are used to bear children and it seems that they are caged in within their own homes and can’t go outside into different cities like it was before.

Something that stands out in the novel is Offred’s comment on Janine’s pregnancy. “Now that she’s the carrier of life, she is closer to death, and needs special security.” (Atwood, 26), this quote seemed weird at first, why would she be closer to death? She should have been taken care of during birth if it is one of the wealthy men that has her in the household. Yet, there is always a reason for everything and in this case, the novel lets the reader know how she is closer to death. Throughout pages thirty-two and thirty-three we begin to understand Offred’s comment as to why Janine is closer to death. The society has banned the practice of medicine and thus increases the mortality rate of the child and/or mother during child birth. This society has moved backwards in knowledge and return to the Old times of society where technology, science and common sense weren’t implemented.

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