The Life of a Handmaid

Reading parts III to VIII of the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood have become very emotional. Reading through how Offred has to go through day by day as a Handmaid is upsetting and disgusting. The title as a Handmaid, given to women, is similar to a prostitute however almost all of their rights are taken away. This happened when the nation has fallen and overthrown by a new government called the Gilead. The Gilead arrange the Handmaids to be personal sex workers for families who can not conceive children. That is the position of the protagonist Offred. Offred has to suffer of the force of Gilead of being a Handmaid maid because she is a woman who is fertile and she makes an attempt to rebel if she can.

Offred visits her doctor where the doctor sexually harass her, then she refuses him and his offer to help Offred. When Offred will soon be in a uncomfortable situation with her doctor as he sexually harass her, “My breasts are fingered in their turn, a search for ripeness, rot. The breathing comes nearer” (Artwood 60). During this moment the doctor offers to help Offred. She starts to imagine about her previous husband Luke, who’s whereabouts are unknown as of now, can be found. Offred’s hope about Luke represents how much she wants to be loved by someone, rather than being a sex object. This shows how the Gilead influence creates this norm that Handmaids are nothing more than sex slaves to have children. The doctor’s offer doesn’t seem to assist Offred’s situations at all. He touches Offred without her permission as he places his hand between Offred’s legs as he intends to have sex with her in the end (Artwood 61). This shows pre-Gilead harassment. She doesn’t stop him and as the doctor tells Offred the truth that she wants to have a baby. She responds, “‘Yes,’ I say. It’s true, and I don’t ask why, because I know. Give me children, or else I die. There is more than one meaning to it” (Artwood 61). Offred is under the influence of the Gilead. Due to the order that Gilead creates to make Handmaids, she can’t go against them. Offred know of the consequences of rebelling where dying is one option of having a punishment. This is what the interpretation of “There is more than one meaning to it” may mean. She refuses the doctor’s offer as she doesn’t want to break any Gilead laws.

Offred will commence The Ceremony of having sex with her commander with the commander’s wife present, this the duty of a Handmaid. The scene is described where Offred lies on her back on Serena Joy’s, the commander’s wife, bed. Offred is fully wearing her clothes except for her underwear.  Offred lies between Serena Joy’s legs, while Serena Joy is wearing clothes, and they hold hands. The commander has sex with Offred’s lower body (Artwood  93-94). Offred knows they are not making love nor does it count as rape to her as she explains, “Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for,” (Artwood 94). The atmosphere in the room is serious where any feelings being shown here is unnecessary. This scene demonstrates what it is meant of a Handmaid, nothing but a body to have sex with. Offred doesn’t think about Luke or love and she remains unemotional during the entire process. This shows what the Gilead is doing to Offred and other Handmaids. 

One thought on “The Life of a Handmaid

  1. Jill Belli

    I like how you describe your emotional response to the degradation of the handmaids here Sebastian. Great job … I’ve chosen this post as one of this week’s “Featured Posts” 🙂


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