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

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Introduction

Jessica Beavis 12 3.10.04 What I have learnt so far about the Regime in 'The Handmaid's Tale' The Handmaid's Tale establishes a regime, which has reduced life to a constant drear against the narrator, who can remember what it was like in, 'the time before', as she longs to rebel. The main character reveals the horrors of the totalitarian regime and her struggle for survival throughout these first four chapters, which is characterised by physical description. The novel begins with a direct sentence suggesting the past straight away and the word, 'we' implies that there was more than one and the character is speaking in the first person narrative. Indications of a change taking place is present as she quotes, 'we slept in what had once been the gymnasium'. She uses a detailed description of what had once been a gym, 'the pungent smell of sweat' and also describing the fashion times which progressed from the 1960's to the 1980's indicating a futuristic time. She narrates several flashbacks in the past tense, which distinguishes them from the main body of the story, which she tells in the present tense; 'later in mini-skirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green streaked hair'. She likens the gym to a 'palimpsest, a parchment either erased and written on again or layered with multiple writings. In the gym 'palimpsest', the narrator sees multiple layers of history, Likening the gym to a palimpsest also suggests that the society she now inhabits has been superimposed on a previous society, and traces of the old linger beneath the new. ...read more.

Middle

Apparently there are no mirrors also, indicating identity as a whole for the handmaid's and getting rid of vanity which would be making them individuals. The uniform in which they must wear is red, 'the colour of blood' which defines them again as a whole, not as a unique person. 'The door of the room, not my room' again suggests her rebelling and refusal to conform. The outline of the portrayed regime is now that these women have almost no status, 'unwomen' which is lower than low are showing small signs of rebelling and willingness to be free after living on only rational amounts. An example of this is 'the black market', where illegal and expensive goods were sold so the handmaid yearns for a cigarette but 'like liquor and coffee, cigarettes are forbidden', eventhough she hints that she might therefore she is fusing to conform to the rules again. The hierarchical triangle now lies that the Martha's who are infertile women who do not qualify for the high status of Wives work in domestic roles, followed by the new character in Chapter two and three which is the Commander's wife. She wears blue suggesting connotations of the Virgin Mary, holiness, purity and virginity as she works in the garden with a 'detailed Guardian' at her side. The Guardian is used to help aswell as being a Guard which indicates that the Regime of where the handmaids lie is considerably low compared to the Commander's wife who has her own helper because she is too powerful to be doing jobs for herself, therefore she behaves cruelly towards the Handmaids in her household. ...read more.

Conclusion

The handmaid constantly brings up the thought of this desired wish for freedom and individuality becoming true as she questions whether the guardians think about it too. She then proves a hierarchy point by involving all the groups of characters met so far, 'Commanders of the faithful, their blue wives and white veiled daughters.... or their dumpy green Martha's, or their red handmaids, on foot'. The narrator has purposely put them in order of their power status leaving herself last as she knows that if it were to happen, it wouldn't be the handmaid's who are the lowest and own no power. The regime theme of torture and unhappiness is explored further when the 'black vans' are mentioned which pass through the entrance and she says, 'if there are sounds coming from inside we try not to hear them'. The black vans give the reader the idea of prisoners and people facing torture whilst being taken away. The handmaid lastly suggests that handmaids can be allotted to Angels for if they were to gain enough power so that they can marry, 'allotted a Handmaid of their own' because she knows that if the regime was different and the orders were less demanding and if lack of freedom was restricted, then she could have her desire and so could the Angels and guardians. Overall if their positioning of status and importance were to change then the handmaid's know that they wouldn't be kept and controlled in the same restricted and managed way and they would gain identity in order for themselves to have to freedom and privacy when they choose. ...read more.

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