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

The Handmaid's Tale - Read back over the opening six chapters - Write about how these chapters represent aspects of Offred's world and introduces Gilead to the reader.

Extracts from this document...


AS English Literature Assignment 1. The Handmaid's Tale Read back over the opening six chapters. Write about how these chapters represent aspects of Offred's world and introduces Gilead to the reader. The opening line of the novel begins: 'We slept in what had once been the gymnasium'. People generally find themselves sleeping in gymnasiums only in emergencies, after disasters, but this 'had once' been a gymnasium implies that it was converted to its present use a long time ago. Some major changes have taken place and as we read on we realize these changes have not been made for the good. There is a huge contrast as to the purpose and function of what this gymnasium would have been used for previously and what it is used for now. A gymnasium is a place of activity, energy and sweat. The irony here is that the people occupying the gymnasium now have been forced into extreme inactivity to the point where their every movement is scrutinized. From the very first chapter we are able to make out from what the narrator reveals that the women are highly oppressed with their every move being dictated: '...we weren't allowed out, except for our walks, twice a day, two by two around the football field which was enclosed now by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire'. ...read more.


There is a huge contrast in the ways she refers to her past and present lives. Her referral to the past is positive, sexually charged, affectionate and full of energy. Painful as they are, she has many moments of great nostalgia where we get an insight into what her life once was. Her present is described with great disappointment and disaffection. Her life now is unbearable, a life without basic human rights. 'We learned to whisper almost without sound', shows, although it may be minute, clear resistance. '...we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren't looking, and touch each other's hands across space', communication was cut off at its most basic level. Without the freedom of being able to engage in conversation, touch has almost become their primary form of communication. 'Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.' The names show that the women cannot be looked at as a collective group but as an individual person, an individual case. Each woman will have her own story. The importance of the names shows that up to this point the regime have been unable to strip the women of their identities. ...read more.


In chapter four there is more evidence to support this: 'their youth is touching, but I know I can't be deceived by it. The young ones are the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns.' Protection is an important theme that runs throughout the novel. The heart of the ideology that underlies the founding of Gilead is that 'Women were not protected then'. Sexual violence against women pervades the Handmaid's Tale. The prevalence of rape and pornography in the pre-Gilead world justifies to the founders their establishment of the new order. Freedom to and freedom from', Aunt Lydia describes that in the days of anarchy (the recent past, pre-Gilead), it was freedom to do as was pleased and 'We were a society dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice'. Now they were given freedom from such obscenities and violence. In the Gileadian society it is claimed that the women are better protected, that they are treated with respect and kept safe from violence. Yet, while it claims to suppress sexual violence, Gilead actually institutionalises it as represented through Jezebels (the whore house). More importantly, sexual violence is apparent in the central institution of the novel, the 'Ceremony', which compels Handmaids to have intercourse with their Commanders, almost like a consented rape. Conclusion. ...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. What do you find interesting about the ways in which Margaret Atwood presents relationships ...

    Gilead's theory is that is you narrow people's life enough, and teach them to think of themselves as machines, then they will no longer want as many human things, and will be happy to be instructed like machines are. Pear Freedom of self expression is regulated within Gilead, ways of communication including speech and writing are forbidden.

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

    and goes on to tell Offred that her husband is her husband and that she wants to see her as little as possible this shows just how awkward it would be to attempt a friendship with the wives. It is also clear that the Marthas do not like the handmaids

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

    Throughout the novel, words like 'forgotten' are not used, the past is not forgotten, simply 'disremembered' and this accentuates it's importance in their live. Beloved relies on the past, it is the only link that she has with Sethe as her mother and the only way that she can learn how to live.

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

    'There must have been three once. HOPE and CHARITY, where have they been stowed?' This is a direct reference to I Corinthians 13:13 "So faith, hope, love; abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." The cushion is a very significant symbol in the book as it represents the fact that Offred has been

  1. 19th Century short stories - womens rights

    Tanya is a victim of double standards when the twenty-six men seem to like and admire the fact that the soldier sleeps with many women, however they "jeer at her loudly and viciously, like wild beasts" when Tanya comes out of the cellar with the soldier.

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

    Atwood's main character, Offred, has fantasies of being free. But Offred's vision of freedom is very un-feministic. For instance, at the beginning of the novel, Offred dreams of helping to bake bread. 'Or I would help Rita make the bread, sinking my hands into that soft resistant warmth which is so much like flesh.'

  1. What specific aspects of society do you think Atwood comments on in The Handmaid's ...

    Because we at least had that: arms, around." The realization of how much her life has been altered occurs in the beginning of the novel when Offred comes across a group of Japanese tourists, "They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds about things like this.

  2. What I have learnt so far about the Regime in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    The Aunts use, 'cattle prods', conveying the impression to the reader that they are treated like animals also suggesting a lack of identity to the women. The Angels, however who are even of a stronger status than the Aunts, 'aren't allowed inside the building', and stand with their backs facing

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