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Compare and contrast "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale".

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Introduction

Steve Sharpe Ms. Bridgeman ENG 4U1 January 16, 2004 Although "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale" occur during different time periods, the two societies have many similarities, which are criticized in the novels. The high-ranking officers in "The Wars" exploit the soldiers, as the government officials in "The Handmaid's Tale" exploit women and men who do not follow the ideals of the Gileadean society. The families of the soldiers in "The Wars" and all underprivileged citizens in "The Handmaid's Tale" often remain ignorant to the occurrences within their own societies. The ideals and morals of modern society are violated in both novels. Despite taking place in different time periods, similar societal aspects are criticized in "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale". Citizens in "The Wars and 'The Handmaid's Tale" are severely disadvantaged by those in power, be it the high-ranking officers in "The Wars" or the unprivileged individuals in "The Handmaid's Tale". In "The Wars", Soldiers are often put in situations that jeopardize their lives, but better the cause of the government. One such incidence occurs when Robert Ross and his fellow soldiers are told by Captain Leather to put gun beds into a crater close to the German lines. Robert "wanted to say the forward positions were crazy...he wanted to say that the guns would sink in the mud. But he didn't say anything." (Findley 117) Robert did not have the prerogative to dispute Captain Leather's decision, and therefore had to put himself and other soldiers in danger because Leather thought it strategically valuable. ...read more.

Middle

His wounds are poems." (Findley 49) This romantic image of death is shown to be far from the truth later in the novel. While posted overseas, Robert sees bodies in the mud all around him. "He saw that the whole field was filled with floating shapes. The only sounds were the sounds of feeding and of wings." (Findley 82) Soldiers are made to think that the war will be over quickly. "Then he said to his departing troops: 'you will be home before the leaves have fallen from these trees!' And now the leaves had fallen twice" (Findley 47-8) Ceremonies are used to make citizens feel that the soldiers are losing their lives for a worthwhile cause, taking attention away from the lack of facts surrounding the war. Church services, when soldiers are present, are "militant and more than likely blood-thirsty" (Findley 52) Mrs. Ross recognizes the ridiculousness of this glorification of war. "She gestured back to the sermon in progress. 'I do not understand. I don't. I won't. I can't... What does it mean- to kill you children? Kill them and then... go in there and sing about it! What does that mean?' " (Findley 54) Most members of the Gileadean are not aware of what is happening in their society, save their own narrow worlds. When Offred is permitted to watch a small section of a newscast she thinks, "...who knows if any of it is true? It could be old clips, it could be faked... ...read more.

Conclusion

Death does not have much shock value to individuals in the Gileadean society, as they have been exposed to it frequently. The Handmaids take part in the execution of a man who has performed crimes against society. "There is a surge forward, like a crowd at a rock concert in the former time... Now there are sounds, gasps, a low noise like growling, yells... he's obscured by arms, fist, feet. A high scream comes from somewhere, like a horse in terror." (Atwood 349) These women, who are not violent in every day life, are so desensitized to death that they are able to vent their anger through murder. Rape is common with the Gileadean society, although it is not recognized as such. Handmaids are required to copulate with their Commander, if the choose not to, they will be sent to the Colonies. With citizens being desensitized to death, enjoying killing and destruction, and the acceptance of sexual exploitation, the societies in "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale" transgress the morals of contemporary society. "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale" take place over dissimilar time spans, there are many societal parallels that are criticized in both novels. Soldiers are exploited by their superiors in "The Wars", just as the unprivileged citizens in "The Handmaid's Tale" are used solely to benefit the government. Ignorance to the true motivations and actions of the government are evident in both novels. Social mores and values of present-day society are infracted in both "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale". Regardless of occurring over different time periods, there are several analogous aspects in the two societies represented in "The Wars" and "The Handmaid's Tale", which are criticized. ...read more.

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