The Issues of Freedom and Privacy in a Strict Religious Society

A Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian science fiction web television series created by Bruce Miller. It is based off a 1985 novel written by Margaret Atwood. In the first episode titled “Offred,” The main character named June and her family get captured by a group of armed men. June and her daughter are then sent into a heavily protected town that enforces it’s polices and values by any means necessary. Throughout this episode, religion is shown to be an important part of the town’s society and the status of freedom and privacy is put into question.

Religion appears to be the main focal point of the town. Although it is never stated, religion is heavily implied and enforced to all who live in the area. First, women and children wear clothing that appear to be inspired from the colonial times, a religious period. This includes the maidservant outfit and the red dress with a cotton coif. Second, when speaking to others, women state phrases that most likely have religious connotations, including, “praise be,” “under his eye” and “may the lord open” among others. Lastly, people who are doctors, priests and homosexual are hanged for their personal choice and/or profession (15:40). This is obviously inspired by real religion because history has shown that religious groups tend to disapprove of all these parties, especially homosexuals.

Freedom is very minimal in this episode. Outsiders are not given a choice in becoming a resident of the town because they are either shot in sight or taken in forcefully. For example, June was knocked out unconscious in the beginning of the story, leaving her daughter to be easily snatched away (03:58). Once inside the town which is filled with armed men at every corner, outsiders are then given new names and are forced to learn the town’s values and speech patterns. If one refuses to obey their teachings, they would be dealt a harsh punishment. Janine In particular was mentally and physically tortured by having her eye ripped off (21:30). All Outsiders are later forced to wear the same clothing and follow a strict schedule and set of rules, effectively removing any individuality.

In addition to freedom and religion, privacy is an important and heavily controlled aspect of the town. As previously stated, the town is filled with armed men who watch for any suspicious activities. In most shots of the town, one can notice at least one guard. However, in terms of privacy, June is more concerned about her peers revealing incriminating information than about the guards watching her. She states, “[t]here are no friends here, can’t be. The truth is we’re watching each other. She’s my spy (12:20).” This is emphasized by the fact that all women speak to each other cautiously, obviously thinking before speaking. When one says something that goes against the towns values, they become scared (14:27) or show a rebellious Attitude (51:00). Another example of privacy being at risk is at the end of the episode, where one of Junes peers tells her that, “[t]here’s an eye in your house” (52:50). This means that someone is secretly watching her and relaying information about her activities to a higher power.

One thought on “The Issues of Freedom and Privacy in a Strict Religious Society

  1. Justin Bernard

    For People’s choice , I choose Christopher Navarrete. I concur that religion is big part and focal point of the of the series . It seems that Theonomy, or  divine law, rules over this totalitarian society in the series .Thus, stripping people of their freedoms.


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