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

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Introduction

English Literature The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood 'Discuss the Gileadean concept of "Freedom from, freedom to" The dystopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale' implies the fact that there are two types of freedom, freedom to and freedom from. It is the paradox between 1980's America and Gilead that is examined continually throughout the novel and it's the ideas of 'freedom to' being a society of broad-minded morals and 'freedom from' the more controlled, restrictive society with an imposition upon individual freedom that are most prominent. In Atwood's thought-provoking novel, two societies with conflicting ideologies and concepts of liberty are juxtaposed through a series of flashbacks in an attempt to examine how people would cope when society suddenly deprived its people of freedom and denied them of information. The first society of modern America with its liberal customs, is compared and contrasted to the second society of Gilead, a totalitarian Christian authority which has taken control over America in the 1980's to save it from its declining birth rate and high levels of moral corruption. The protagonist of the novel, Offred, documents the history of the two contrasting societies as she recounts with both sentimentality and clarity, the images and memories of her past life as an American women and those of her present life living under the Gileadean regime as a Handmaid. ...read more.

Middle

She affirms that a freedom from being exposed to the indulgence and dissolution of the previous society is far superior to the ability to make trivial decisions in life. It is evident that at the centre of the Gileadean regime, is the responsibility to protect women. In the time before the establishment of Gilead, people were at liberty and had 'freedom to' commit crime, take drugs, abuse others and live as they saw fit. The lack of 'freedom from' in the time before, compared with the apparent 'freedom from' sexual crimes, degradation and attack in Gilead is startling. In effect, what is most apparent in Gilead is that women have the freedom from having to make choices, which is not freedom at all. The distinct differences between the limitations on men and those applied to women provide an insight for the reader in reference to Gilead's patriarchal intentions and social hierarchy. Men have both a recognised higher status and a provision of control. Women are merely for breeding purposes and are doled out to those men who have worked their way up the social hierarchy and who are now "permitted to touch women." It seems as though Atwood has implied that if Gilead could have got rid of women altogether it would have, but that a society cannot function without women as the ability to produce another generation lies solely in their hands. ...read more.

Conclusion

Any regime where an individual's only value is their role in society, whether it is to procreate or to keep the society under control, cannot be seen as superior in its approach to its public. A society where individuals do not have the freedom of speech and where their roles are predetermined by their gender is obviously not one of equality. Therefore, I can only conclude that a society where the policy is 'freedom to' is of a higher status, as long as it has it's limitations. I can sympathise with Atwood's criticisms of modern society, however, the Gileadean approach to life where gender and age determine your fate and most things are permitted, is not the solution. In conclusion, Atwood's representations of the two extremes of freedom are telling in their ability to provoke thought from the reader, as when they are compared, it causes the reader to realise not to take the societies within which we are living for granted, as things could be much worse. The extreme religious society of Gilead with its oppressive 'freedom from' approach, although beneficial in that the population is free from crime and corruption, are not free themselves, living lives of fear under the regime. Joanna Lowe Page 1 Mrs Hillyard ...read more.

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