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What is the importance of the Japanese tourists in chapter five of 'The Handmaids Tale'?

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Introduction

What is the importance of the Japanese tourists in chapter five of 'The Handmaids Tale'? The Japanese tourists presented in chapter five may only cover a page and a half in the novel, however, this passage should not be underestimated as the tourists importantly act as a subtle representation of everything that the Handmaids have been stripped of, most importantly their freedom. The way in which the author introduces the reader to the tourists is notably intriguing: 'A group of people is coming towards us. They're tourists,..' To begin the paragraph with this line provides a fundamental theme of 'us and them,' in the sense that these tourists are completely alien to the Handmaid's as they are indoctrinated into conforming to this distopian, regimented way of living. Extensive use of description emphasises the scrutiny in the conduct of observation made towards both parties, it is easy to make the connection between the Japanese and a pack of animals hunting together, desperate for a photographic souvenir of the bizarre surroundings and its inhabitants held captive in this disconcerting and systematic society. ...read more.

Middle

Also, the exuding sexuality from the female tourists is also commented on from the way their bodies are positioned; 'their backs arch at the waist, thrusting the buttocks out' and the seductive power that is unleashed from their red lipstick to their hair which is 'exposed in all its darkness and sexuality'. The author wants to illustrate the fact that it is all too easy for a woman to take the simple things that embrace our femininity for granted and this is what the Handmaid's have been forced to sacrifice. Consequently the Handmaid's have forgotten what it is like as a woman to be free and to be sexually liberated. The Handmaid's continue to express their fascination, though this is also combined with repulsion until they remember that was once them: 'Then I used to think:I used to dress like that. That was freedom.' This is what the Handmaid's have been deprived of and that is why they are resistant to accept that what they are witnessing was once in fact reality and nothing unordinary. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is a tone of melancholy that is instigated when the Handmaid's senses are reawakened when she is presented with a nostalgic reminder of the smell of nail polish. The short sentence 'I can feel her shoes, on my own feet' poignantly highlights the Handmaid's yearning for the satisfaction that owning a pair of beautiful shoes once brought. The Japanese tourists are free, they are able to leave Gilead and this is what the Handmaid's resent more than anything, they are not even granted the right to speak their mind or truthfully for that matter, as they are obligated to give the answer that is suitable rather than honest: ' "Yes, we are very happy," I murmur. I have to say something. What else can I say?" It becomes obvious to the reader that these are women who have no choice other than to correspond to the society's legislation consequently, the tourists importantly highlight the contrast between freedom and the loss of it which is ultimately the Handmaids fate. ...read more.

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