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

'Discuss Atwood's presentation of Gilead in the first seventy-six pages of the novel'.

Extracts from this document...


English Literature The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood 'Discuss Atwood's presentation of Gilead in the first seventy-six pages of the novel' The anti-utopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale' tells the futuristic story of Offred, a Handmaid of the oppressive Gileadean regime, a society governed by an elite and characterised by distorted language that refers to Biblical writings. The novel is set around the near-future repressive society of Gilead at war, blocking any form of external influence and using propaganda to further its ideas as a society, ruling by force and restricting individual freedom. The Gileadean regime regards the Church to be of the highest authority, Puritanism being the religious influence. Repressed within this patriarchal society, Offred's only duty as a Handmaid is to reproduce for the Republic of Gilead. The dystopian Republic of Gilead is introduced methodically in the opening chapters of the book. Offred provides the reader with small insights to Gilead's establishment and teachings, through the techniques of flashbacks and references to daily life under the regime. The reader's initial impressions of the society, within which Offred is living, are intentionally built up progressively as Atwood provides limited material about Gilead. Atwood deliberately allows the Gileadean regime to be introduced slowly but effectively, provoking the reader to grasp for any information about the society by which Offred is held captive. ...read more.


Within Gilead, the Handmaids are denied their identity, as their own names are erased and replaced with the name of whom they are assigned to. The names of the Handmaids themselves are patronymic, derived from the names of their Commanders, for example, Offred's Commander's forename was Fred, and so she became 'of Fred'. The language used within the social hierarchy to label a particular section is communicative of a specific group's function and status. The name 'Commander' reveals not only the rank but also the high regard that these individuals demand, indicating that they possibly had something to do with the founding of Gilead and its authority. The sentinels and protectors of Gilead as a state, the 'Eyes', 'Guardians' and 'Angels', although initially misleading, their names communicate their purpose. The 'Eyes', who are the secret police within the regime, can be recognised as spies, the 'Guardians' are the members of the police force and can be understood as the protectors of Gilead and the 'Angels' are the soldiers of the Gileadean army, who are saving Gilead from defeat. Similarly, the 'Marthas' are female servants within a Commander's household, acting as cooks or housekeepers, their names based on a Biblical reference to the story of Martha and Mary, where Martha did all the housework during Jesus' visit. Additionally, the people known as Econowives, who are the wives of the 'common men', are those who are separate from and below the Gileadean reproductive administration. ...read more.


Personally, and I believe for many others, that the Gileadean regime would be an unbearable one to be living under not only due it's oppressive attitude and limitations on individual freedom, but its outlook towards women, seeing them only necessary for breeding purposes. To progress from a society where freedom is a right, to a reign of a restrictive religious dictatorship would prove to be too much for many to contemplate. However, I can appreciate Atwood's criticisms of modern society reaching its extreme, to the point where a backlash would occur and a return to traditional values would be expected. In this case, the extreme end product of such a backlash was the succession of the society of Gilead, a warning from Atwood of the polar opposite of the lives of freedom and independence that we lead today. In conclusion, I believe that Atwood's presentation of such a violently existent society is effective in its ability to provoke thought from the readers of the novel. The display of such an extreme regime in the novel, in comparison to those of which we live under today, arouses necessary consideration from the reader about the world we are living in. The presentation of Gilead itself within the first seventy-six pages of the novel, with its religious absolutist morality, violent approach towards rebels and absurdly oppressive limitations on people's lives in terms of independence, dress and food, is a warning from Atwood about the way in the world is pushing the boundaries of morality. Joanna Lowe Page 1 Mrs Hillyard ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood 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 GCSE Margaret Atwood essays

  1. Discuss The Handmaids Tale as a significant dystopian novel. What affect can it have ...

    If she does finally escape, it is because of Nick, not because of anything she does herself. Offred is good hearted but complacent. Offred is often frustrated because she is treated like a child, she has to take naps, once before she was very independent.

  2. Handmaid's Tale Epigraphs

    not a resource but food and water are * No law, moral or social will forbid anyone to eat stones * Nature is not at fault, rules may

  1. The Handmaid's Tale - What are the main methods of control in the Gileadean ...

    news and Identipasses were introduced which people approved of 'since it was obvious you couldn't be too careful.' Also there was a conservative backlash. Too much pornography had become available so 'the porno-marts were shut' people agreed that these had been a 'nuisance' but still peoples freedom was gradually being prized away from them.

  2. What do you find interesting about the ways in which Margaret Atwood presents relationships ...

    However the Commander manages to retain copies of women's magazines and his study is full of books, "an oasis of the forbidden". The hypocrisy is highlighted most by the state run brothel, "Jezebels". Although Gilead condemns promiscuity and preaches of the sanctity of marriage, the founders of the regime are

  1. What analysis of the female role does Margaret Atwood offer in ' The Handmaid's ...

    Offred knows that she should not try to speak to her shopping partner Ofglen, in case she is a spy. 'The truth is that she is my spy, as I am hers.' Another factor preventing the handmaids from building up friendships is the fact that one of the predominant emotions that they feel towards each other is jealousy.

  2. Compare and contrast the narrative structures in 'White Teeth' and 'Beloved' and how the ...

    The relationship that exists between Paul D is a part of this perspective, which Denver is unable to comprehend. This is an important narrative device used by Morrison as it creates exclusive parts of time, which are only relevant to certain characters.

  1. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood, 'Discuss the Gileadean concept of "Freedom from, freedom ...

    The reader, like Offred, is thrown into a foreign world, experiencing a similar sense of confusion and disorientation, as she may have. We, the readers, like Offred, seize any form of information as to what is going on, but perhaps the lack of information is part of the nightmare.

  2. 19th Century short stories - womens rights

    However, we can see that Tanya has a positive effect on the men. When the narrator is writing about Tanya, the language used is more optimistic and attractive than before; "heavy ceiling" compared to "laughing blue eyes". Men of the nineteenth century were aware that they were superior to women.

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