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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.

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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