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

Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in the novel The Handmaid's tale.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in the novel The Handmaid's tale was written in 1986 during the rise of the opposition to the feminist movement. Atwood, a Native American, was a supporter of this movement. In this novel, which reflects on the antifeminist messages given to women by the fundamentalist New Right in the 1980's, Atwood portrays in detail just what might follow: the virtual enslavement of women, their reduction to mere functions. Her purpose in writing this serious satire is to warn women of what the female gender stands to lose if the feminist movement were to fail. In this essay, I am going to look at the issues concerning women and feminism in The Handmaid's Tale. In the Republic of Gilead, the masculine code is carried to the extreme in the regime's assignment of women to various classes - the wives, the Handmaids, the Martha's, the Econo-wives, and the Aunts - according to their functions. As a result of the sexual freedom, free abortion and high increase of venereal diseases at the end of the twentieth century, many women are sterile. The women who are still fertile are recruited as Handmaids, and their only mission in life is to give birth to the offspring of their Commander, whose wife is infertile. ...read more.

Middle

Another feminist in the novel is Offred's mother. A 'wiry, spunky' feminist, Offred's mother disappears soon after the Gileadean Coup; branded an Unwoman, she is shipped to the Colonies where she is forced to sweep up toxic wastes - a certain death sentence. Complacency in a totalitarian state, as Atwood suggests, is that people will endure oppression willingly as long as they receive some slight amount of power or freedom. Offred remembers her mother saying that it is 'truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.' Women in general support Gilead's existence by willingly participating in it. While a woman like Serena Joy has no power in the world of men, she excersises authority within her own household and seems to delight in tyrannising over Offred. She jealously guards what little power she has and wields it eagerly. In a similar way, the women known as Aunts, especially Aunt Lydia, act as willing agents of the Gileadean State. They indoctrinate other women into ruling ideology, keep a close eye out for rebellion, and generally serve the same function for Gilead that the Jewish police did under the Nazi rule. As for feminism in The Handmaid's Tale, there are two separate opinions. One opinion is that it is a feminist novel, and the opposing opinion is that it is not. ...read more.

Conclusion

They still have to fear for their lives and their bodies and tiptoe around men. Aunt Lydia states that "Men are sex machines...They only want one thing. You must learn to manipulate them, for your own good." Just as in present day society, the Handmaid's Tale still keeps women oppressed through their body images and fear for their safety. When love for oneself, whether it be a man or a woman, is taken away, the strength of the individual is lost. In a society where both genders are truly equal, men and women would work together on creating a safe space for everyone, not just the women. Therefore, there are many issues in The Handmaid's Tale concerning women and feminism, which are mostly didactic. . The dystopic novel that Atwood created isolates certain social trends in real communities and exaggerated them to make clear their most negative qualities. Instead of proclaiming her feelings out loud, Offred suppresses them. The result is a series of recordings, which describes her life, and the things she wishes she could change. Through these examples, it is apparent that women in Gilead cannot resolve their problems because of outside circumstances. This then links back to what the female gender would have to lose if the feminist movement failed, because once in a situation like Gilead, it would be extremely hard to escape. Therefore, Atwood's message is that women should not be complacent within their society and should try to change it for the benefit of future generations. ...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. The Handmaid's Tale - What are the main methods of control in the Gileadean ...

    The control over people's lives was so powerful that it took away peoples individuality. Everyone in Gilead has a clearly, defined role and they are colour coded according to their status. This made it easier to control them but it also took away their individuality.

  2. Handmaids - Explore the portrayal of Serena Joy and the Commander in the ...

    Her garden also portrays these feelings she has about children of her own, 'Many of the wives have such gardens, it is something for them to order and maintain and care for.' She treats her garden, like you would expect her to treat a child, by caring for it lovingly with great affection.

  1. Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in The Handmaids Tale

    The women's roles are also represented in the colour of the clothes they wear for the Marthas it is green for the commanders wife it is blue and lastly the handmaids wear a red nun-like uniform where the red represents their function suggesting the blood of the menstrual cycle and

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

    Through a series of recordings describing her life, it is shown that she cannot resolve her problems due to the outside circumstances. In The Handmaid's Tale Atwood uses the characters of Moira and Offred's mother to present two different feminist perspectives.

  1. All around us we see evidence of the way in which belief is institutionalised ...

    In chapter twenty-one a handmaid named Janine (or Ofwarren) gives birth, there are numerous religious implications leading up and during the birth. In chapter nineteen Offred describes to the reader how anaesthetics and caesareans are no longer a part of childbirth, but how in a society based on religion women are supposed to feel the pain of childbirth.

  2. "The Handmaids Tale" By Margaret Atwood, "The importance of being Ernest" by Oscar Wilde ...

    control, it is the women who speak the most, keeping their supremacy over the relations, they are at the top of the hierarchy, but Lady Bracknell has the most authority that is shown through Gwendolyn going from assertive with Jack to submissive to Lady Bracknell.

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

    The repetitive nature of the slogans, and the new vocabulary "prayvaganza" is reminiscent of modern marketing campaigns, the manipulation of profound sentiments as a use of rhetoric conveys a criticism of contemporary marketing and consumerism. This can be seen as a specific critique of American marketing which is often viewed

  2. Conformity in Margaret Atwood's Novel: The Handmaid's Tale

    They are adamant about their job and very encouraging to the Handmaids: "Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will.

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