• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine how Atwood presents Offred's sense of self in "The Handmaid's Tale"

Extracts from this document...


Examine how Atwood presents Offred's sense of self in "The Handmaid's Tale" Sense of self can be defined by the "roles, attributes, behaviours, and associations that we consider most important about our selves".1 Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale" during the 80s; (1986 to be precise) an era of 'power-dressing'. A key icon of the 'power-dressing' was the wife of the American president, Nancy Reagan, who wore outfits with huge shoulder pads, making her look more masculine. Famous women like her encapsulated what the women of the time aspired to be: rich, beautiful, intelligent and powerful.2 In "The Handmaid's Tale", Offred constantly refers back to her old life and the way she used to style herself in comparison to the way she looks now. She remembers, "Makeup"3 and "bathing suits and platform shoes"4, "sheer pantyhose against the skin"5, and "the smell of nail paint"6. All these things relate to the image that she once aspired to obtain, and this constant regression shows how she longs to return to her life before the regime, when she was secure in her identity. The air of desirability Atwood gives these things reflects how Offred desires them. ...read more.


Offred used to view herself as Luke's lover, then eventually his wife, these were roles that were important to her and roles that she attributed to her identity, "Can I be blamed for wanting a real body to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied."17 The rhetorical question shows how confused and alone Offred feels and the word, "disembodied" highlights Offred's need to feel loved in a physical relationship because she defines herself through her interaction with others, but in the dystopian society in which she lives this social and emotional interaction has been removed. When Offred finally does sleep with Nick he becomes a substitute for Luke, "I went back to Nick. Time after time on my own, without Serena knowing".18 Atwood uses short sentences to give the reader a blunt and concise account of what happened; the fact that Offred slept with Nick is irrelevant in comparison to the implications it has. The small, insignificant rebellions Offred has executed throughout the novel come to a climax at this point in the story, where Offred shows that she is willing to sacrifice her life and social standing in an attempt to express her true self. ...read more.


11 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 14, Page 94. 12 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 41, Page 282. 13 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 4, Page 27. 14 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter16, Page 106 15 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter16, Page 106 16 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter16, Page 104 17 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter18, Page 113. 18 The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 41, Page 280. 19 The Laugh of the Medusa, (1976) Helene Cixous. 20 Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and the Dystopian Tradition (1987) Mallik. Being a 'basic victim' is to, "acknowledge being a victim but refuse to accept the assumption that the role is inevitable". Like Offred, Winston (in 1984) also takes the 'basic victim position' by writing his story as a diary to a nameless reader. He knows that he is under the ever-present eye of 'Big Brother' and,"if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death" (Nineteen Eighty-Four. Chapter 1, page 8). Nevertheless, Winston is compelled to write his story and rebel against 'Newspeak' by writing, "the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head". 21 Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and the Dystopian Tradition (1987) Mallik. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alicia Boulter Page | 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Handmaid's Tale section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Handmaid's Tale essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How Does Atwood present women in the Handmaid's Tale?

    4 star(s)

    Atwood uses the character of Moira to demonstrate the rebellious, brave and radical side of feminism, and she contrasts against Offred and the other handmaid's passivity. Offred obviously adores Moira, describing her with a great energy and vitality for life: "Moira, breezing into my room, dropping her denim jacket on the floor.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Compare how a sense of claustrophobia is built up in the Handmaids Tale and ...

    4 star(s)

    Offred's feelings of extreme claustrophobia are exacerbated through the juxtaposition of the former senses. In Offred's case she is more sensitive towards these feelings of freedom. Offred is a victim of gradual entrapment that has been apparent in her society for many years; chapter 28 reveals the gradual oppression of

  1. Presentation and significance of settings in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    In the Colonies you die of radiation sickness. Effectively, if you do anything wrong in Gilead you are sent out to die and rejected, labelled as an Unwoman by Gilead. The mention of the colonies and its purpose clearly conveys the dystopian world which Atwood has created. Offred's description of the suburban street in Chapter 5 page 33 suggests that it is artificial.

  2. The Handmaids Tale illustrates that dictatorship can be established by creating a state of ...

    To be more concise, God is the government itself. Starting with the most fundamental thing, the state "Gilead" itself is named after a Biblical state. Moreover, Biblical uses of language have probably become part of the Gileadian culture, as demonstrated by the fact that the Handmaids are expected to communicate,

  1. Feminism in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    Gilead has split the women into so many different groups that they are no longer able to be united in order to rebel or form a feminist group. They are willing to do favours for each other though and this is clear when Offred agrees to have sex with Nick so that Serena can have the chance of a baby.

  2. how does margret atwood use language as a tool of oppression

    oppression as its like Offred is being weighed down by her clothes as it shows nothing and gives control again because it is like a uniform, there is no individuality between people. No freedom of speech is allowed so they must live by the rules to survive.

  1. How do we get a sense of Dystopia from the opening chapters of the ...

    'I pick up the shopping basket, put it over my arm.' However our narrator doesn't seem to thrilled with the shopping and it is not the kind of shopping we are familiar with. We also learn that they can only 'stand or kneel only.'

  2. How Far is The Handmaids Tale a Dystopian Text, Specifically at the Regime of ...

    This clothing would be considered acceptable within today's society. Offred is at first shocked by the tourists, but then she remembers how she 'used to dress like that' and 'that was freedom.' Atwood uses Offred's memories of before the Gileadean regime to show how much the society has changed since then.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work