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

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

Extracts from this document...


How does Atwood present women in the handmaid's tale? Atwood presents women as intelligent, submissive, rebellious, ignorant and powerful. The narrator of the story, Offred is desperate to escape her life however she is fearful of the consequences of any rebellion, and ultimately submits to her fate. Offred is an intelligent, educated woman, and Atwood's lexical choice demonstrates Offred's understanding of words: "Larynx. I spell. Valance. Quince. Zygote." Her intelligence is highly frustrating, as her stream of conscious thoughts is suppressed and internalised. If she was stupid and ignorant, she would find it easier to come to terms with her situation, however her crystal clear memories and vivid imagination provide an alternative reality that is painful to conceive: "I would like to believe this is a story I'm telling." Atwood writes about a past world that all readers can relate to, a world that Offred took for granted: "I had a paper due next day. What was it? Psychology, English, Economics. We studied things like that then. On the floor of the room there were books, open face down, this way and that, extravagantly." ...read more.


In light of Moira, Aunts were less fearsome and more absurd." Moira is the only one Atwood ascribes with her real name, demonstrating her refusal to submit and to be defined by the men that govern her. However after her escape Offred discovers Moira in a brothel, her radical spirit seems to be broken and lost as she chose sexually serving men over a life in the colonies. It seems that Atwood is showing how a dictating regime will eventually crush even the most resilient person: "I'd like to say she blew up Jezebel's, with 50 commanders inside it. I'd like her to end with something that would befit her. But as far as I know that didn't happen." It seems that whenever Offred showed outward weakness or cowardice, she always thought of Moira as her hope that somebody is fighting, but now even Moira has given up. However Offred herself does occasionally show signs of rebellion, such as her relationships with Ofglen and Nick. However her feelings of closeness to Nick lead her to believe that her situation is bearable, and she stops talking to Ofglen about the Mayday movement, therefore continuing to give up her freedom and remain submissive. ...read more.


Atwood is demonstrating a fundamental aspect of a totalitarian regime: that knowledge is power. She is warning us that if we do not seek knowledge we will remain the proletariat; controlled by the powerful. Aunt Lydia holds great significance in Offred's life, her influence and control clearly evident whenever Offred is faced with an ethical decision: "I know better than to say Yes. Modesty is invisibility, said Aunt Lydia." Offred's constant recollections demonstrate how Aunt Lydia repeated these mantras until they were embedded into the Handmaid's conscience. Offred wholeheartedly resents Aunt Lydia, and Atwood uses her cruel, phrases to demonstrate to the reader the profound hypocrisy of the regime: "We want you to be valued Girls. She is rich in pauses, which she savours in her mouth. Think of yourselves as pearls." Atwood uses Aunt Lydia as a perpetrator of dystopian society- where how things are thought to be, and how things actually are, are vastly and immeasurably disconnected. However Aunt Lydia's denial and power create a character as misogynistic as the men that rule Gilead, showing that if woman continue to judge, control and subjugate each other, they will never join together and be powerful enough to put an end to the regime. ...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

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This is very good material indeed, demonstrating a high level control of lexis and structure. Points are well made, with skillful and apt support from textual references. Insight into the roles of the various women characters in the novel is penetrating and clearly expressed.

The essay falls down firstly by not having a clearly-expressed introduction and thesis, therefore making it hard for the reader to judge the essay writer's achievement. Secondly, there is no summary or conclusion at the end, which would serve to show how the claims made in the introduction have been supported by analysis. With these changes, the essay could attain 5 stars.

4 stars

Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 23/07/2013

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

    The wall is a significant object in Gilead. It is not a person but it is the most powerful resource in the Gilead regime because it creates fear. It is for the people within the regime to go and look at.

  2. In 'The Handmaid's Tale' how does Atwood use the first chapter of the novel ...

    With oppression, leads to the suppression of women in particular. There is a prevailing irony which is: women are used to oppress women - in this case, it is the Aunts with their "electric cattle prods" to stop the women communicating with each other, and later in the novel, it

  1. Feminism in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    She challenges these perspectives by taking them to the extreme. Offred's narrative is made up of memories which represent important documentary evidence of cultural history in America. This information includes the rise of second wave feminism and the anti feminist backlash of New Right Christian fundamentalism.

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

    Do they no longer exist? Another way in which our narrator portrays dystopia is the fact that 'Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth patrolled, they had electric cattle prods on thongs from their leather belts.' This builds dystopia because in a normal world Aunts do not patrol and they do not carry electric cattle prods to keep our narrator escaping.

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

    she views it as something to be in awe of, something she must "treasure" and, "dig up, one day"11. The word, "amulet" refers to something that protects you from danger; the danger for Offred would be to completely lose her sense of self so Offred refers to this name in

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

    This displays a contrast as before there are a few lines which state a more feminist society of rebellious freedom the women had when they were teenagers, 'later in mini skirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair', the use of language creates imagery of what our main

  1. What is the Significance of the Scrabble Game to the Development of the Novel ...

    There is some irony in the fact that the supposedly radical act of playing a scrabble game only manages to take away the clarity of Offred?s feelings about her surroundings. First it led her to find a bit of humanity in the Commander.

  2. The Handmaid's Tale - commentary on an extract "The Ceremony goes as usual."

    At the end of the second paragraph the reader encounters the metaphorical description of the canopy. "the canopy (?)

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