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

What do you find interesting about the ways in which Margaret Atwood presents relationships between men and women?

Extracts from this document...


What do you find interesting about the ways in which Margaret Atwood presents relationships between men and women? In "The Handmaid's Tale", Atwood continually streeses the importance of intimacy, tenderness and love, in its many guises. Considering Atwood is a feminist writer who creates a patriarchal dystopia, one might expect the book to have a rather an aggressive attitude towards men, but In "The handmaid's Tale" Margaret Atwood explores the interaction between men and women, paticularly within heterosexual relationships. The most significant relationship within Offred's life is undoubtedly that with Luke, the central protagonist's lover, husband and father to her child. Through the use of flashback, Atwood creates a picture of domestic happiness and the reader is led to believe that the two were very happy together. As the novel progresses, Atwood juxtaposes the present of the novel, a dystopian vision of a modern tyranny and the past, Offred's life in contemporary society. It is her role as mother and wife that offred remembers fondly, evoking mmories of her life with Luke and the loving memories they shared. The contrast clearly emphasises both the loving domesticity in which Luke and offred lived and the loneliness of Life in Gilead where relationships are not permitted for handmaids. During the flashbacks to the past Offred evokes memories of incidents which suggest that Offred and Luke did not have an entirely equal relationship It is the relationship between offred and the commander which is explored in the most depth, as the reader is given access to lots of the dialogue between the two. It is ironic that considering the status of each of the two, we see that Offred is able o gain a lot of the power within the relationship, she even goes as far to reprimand him for trying to touch her during the ceremony and then says herself, "we were on quite different terms by now". ...read more.


One of the greatest paradoxes of the novel is that whilst Gilead is a futuristic state where "computalk" exists, many aspects of Gileadean life are reminiscent of Puritanical societies of the past. In fact, Gilead encourages study of puritanical history, which they believe justifies its claim that it is " a return to nature's norm". Gilead's ideology is a backlash to all the civil rights movements that had been fighting for greater equality, it is a regimented and oppressive society in which back people and women find themselves pushed to the bottom of the social ladder. Atwood explicitly refers to totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, asking the reader to question why such repressive societies are created. By drawing on other historical backlashes she emphasises the circularity of history and the importance of civil rights movements. The references to history remind the reader that whilst Gilead is an imaginary stare, it is not completely unrealistic, "Gilead's genius was synthesis". Gilead in a very amplified way also mirrors the backlash in the 80s against the feminist movement. Gilead is a frightening example of a modern tyrannical regime. What is most interesting is that it exploits tensions present within our society, such as racial conflicts, to gain and maintain power. This is a warning to all of us about the dangers of all extreme ideologies, and the threat of complacency that allows repressive backlashes to occur. As Gilead reduces people to mere functions it is also a very impersonal society in which relationships are dictated and controlled. Atwood paints the deprivation of love as a cold and lonely picture, and so Gilead is also a reminder that the intimate and the domestic, the aspects of Offred's' old life which she keeps returning to, and which are infinitely valuable. "There is more than one type of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. ...read more.


Her declining physical health is a constnat reminder of her physical inabilities and her fading femininity. This is a stark contrast to the young blond girl, and her bitterness and loneliness creates pathos for her trapped situation. Despite her declining physical healtg, serena mentally tough, illustrated at the end of the novel when the commander hides behind her as offred leaves, and on Offred's arrival when Aserena is defiant, her chin "is clenched like a fist". Her metal strength and deire to rebel parallels many of the other strong female characters in the novel; Moira, Ofgken and Offred's mother. She is contrasted wit themselves as well, as whilst slogans used by offred's mother may gave been pervertred to suit the regime, sSerena fundamentall desired the regime until she got it. Serena is also doubled with Offred, both are desperate for a child and attentions rest on the Commander. Tjough these two women both srive for "common aim" concerning children, they are always in conflict because of their differing status. Serena is higher up the hierarchical ladder than Offred and thus has a lot of power over her life, Atwood makes a mockery of the feminist notion of Sisterhood conveyed most clearly n the Birth Day, and is perhaps also commenting on the notion of sisterhood witin our own society when women oppress other women. Some pathos is created through Serena's situation in a a love triangle with offred and the Commander. Serena is portrayed as very lonely, and the commander tells offred that "she doesn't understand me" which suggests Serens is not in love with her husband, however she is very hurt to find out about his illicit affair, "You could have left me something." Her character can also be seen as a parody of the Virtuous Woman, which is what she had presented herself as being. She is estranged from her husband, jealous of her handmaid and has nothing to do other than knit and gossip. ...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 ...

    Before the ceremony the Handmaid's were allowed to watch the news Offred believed 'it could be faked,' because they were always shown 'victories, never defeats,' but that's because nobody wants 'bad news' it would bring their spirits down. It was also important for the government to get rid of universities

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

    Women had the freedom to work, to have money, to have a family basically having the freedom to do anything if they wanted to achieve it. Aunt Lydia shows strongly that she is against this "We were a society dying of too much choice" Offred remembers when women had the

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

    Not religion itself, or followers of religion, but the way that people twist religion to abuse their power and create tyranny. Not to believe in the new puritan religion is certain death, "we were careful to exchange nothing more than the ordinary greetings. Nobody wanted to be reported, for disloyalty."

  2. In 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood and 'The Remains of the Day' by ...

    This use of setting in both novels is important as it gives 'Stevens' and 'Offred' noticeably pressuring conditions in which their relationships must triumph, blossom and most importantly evade. "TROTD" tells the story of an elderly English butler named Stevens as he confronts disillusionment through a recalled life spent in

  1. How does Margaret Atwood create the sense that Gilead is a dystopia in"The Handmaids ...

    They are kept in this institution for a reason; this reason is for them to learn how to become good handmaids. After they have attained these skills they are sent to a house hold where they will stay for the rest of their lives or be married off.

  2. Comment on the portrayal of the Aunts in 'The Handmaid's Tale', their role in ...

    Aunt Lydia said she was lobbying for the front. Yours is a position of honour, she said." Aunt Lydia's words also offer some comfort in desperate times, as she perceptively points out, "Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to.

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

    'The tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem; as if they had been cut and are beginning to heal there.' The garden to Serena Joy is also something she can take her frustration out on, as she is not supposed to harm Offred.

  2. Discuss how aspects of control are explored in

    "The Bible doesn't give any definition of Man...the definition comes from Nicholson's Repentance's". Both authors further challenge the issues of orthodox religion. Gilead claims a loving God at the heart of their beliefs. By ironically labelling "Angels" and "Guardians" with these religious and tender connotations, Atwood exposes how far these violent and threatening authoritarian figures have moved from true religion.

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