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The Handmaid's Tale - Character Study - Aunt Lydia.

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Introduction

The Handmaid's Tale Character Study - Aunt Lydia In the Republic of Gilead, Aunt Lydia works in the Red Centre as one of the crack female control agents known as the "Aunts". There, she works as a propaganda minister, brainwashing the potential Handmaids to be content with their roles within Gilead. Entrusted with such a prestigious job it's easy to imagine Aunt Lydia to have unequivocal devotion to the Gilead regime - but upon closer inspection, Aunt Lydia's faith may not be so clear-cut. For the initial chapters, Aunt Lydia is a hazy character - Offred offers a few of her quotes occasionally in relevant situations, but no description of her appearance or demeanour. The most famous of these quotes is "There is more than one kind of freedom - freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are given freedom from. Don't underrate it." Taken at face value, Aunt Lydia means that before Gilead women had the freedom to have promiscuous sex, have abortions, smoke, drink, etcetera, and in Gilead they are given 'freedom' from rape, mugging, assault and so on. ...read more.

Middle

Aunt Lydia might look abstracted but she was aware of every twitch." It's possible that Aunt Lydia is reflecting on her position in Gilead - a once proud woman is reduced to teaching Gilead's only fertile women that the country's most powerful women are defeated women. It's difficult to imagine her being happy in such a situation. This is further emphasised by Offred's next recollection - "The future is in your hands, she resumed. She held her own hands out to us. In your hands, she said, looking down at her own hands as if they had given her the idea. But there was nothing in them. They were empty." It sounds as though Aunt Lydia realises that the future is not in her hands - that her part in Gilead is nowhere near as important as the young women she is brainwashing. One of Aunt Lydia's more telling episodes occurs in Chapter Ten. She describes to the Handmaids how, in the time before, sunbathing in public was a common occurrence. ...read more.

Conclusion

When reading these passages, Offred presents Aunt Lydia as a woman who truly believes in her cause and is devoted to Gilead. Therein lies the problem, as Aunt Lydia is presented entirely through Offred's eyes, complete with her spite and malice toward Aunt Lydia. It is difficult to be sure what Aunt Lydia's true feelings are toward the Gileadean regime - at times the reader feels that Aunt Lydia is deeply unhappy in her position, but at other times you feel she truly believes the propaganda she preaches. She is an ambiguous character that can be taken in make ways. There's a feeling that Aunt Lydia has convinced herself that she believes in Gilead, although her mind isn't completely brainwashed, as seen in her episode where she talks about public sunbathing. Her momentary lapses in belief are outnumbered by passionate lectures against women's sordid lives during the Time Before, as it is easier to convince herself to believe in the Gileadean regime rather than meander through her life unhappily and unable to change anything. ...read more.

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