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What is the Significance of the Birth Sequence in the Middle of the Novel?

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Introduction

What is the Significance of the Birth Sequence in the Middle of the Novel? The birth sequence highlights many of the important aspects and themes of the story. The fact that it is situated in the centre of the novel emphasises how the entire tale revolves around the themes of reproduction and conception which is why it is important that this sequence plays a key role in the novel. Putting it in this place enables the reader to 'get into' the story which will add more weight to this key issue. In the lead up to this sequence Offred is eating an egg which is symbolic of fertility; the fact that conception is difficult is accentuated by the underlying metaphors which stress the despondency Offred feels about her situation, "If I had an egg what more could I want?".

Middle

and also how the birth rate declined massively just prior to the regime due to "chemicals, rays and radiation" which is ironic as, despite the fact that officials know the chance of conception is small, they still put enormous pressure on the handmaids to become pregnant. Offred's concern about what it must be like to "go through all that and give birth to a shredder" show how the handmaids are only too well aware of the risks involved and the suffering they have to endure. Divisions between wives and handmaids are exposed with the handmaids arriving at the birth in a van with curtains against the windows and just benches down both sides where as the wives are transported in state in a van which has real, upholstered seats and isn't curtained off. After the birth the wives "pig out" on a buffet where as the handmaids are only allowed milk and sandwiches.

Conclusion

It seems that there is a quest for occasions in which to experience enjoyment which acts as therapy in order to relieve the stress and tension which builds up during the 'normal' days of the regime. This could be because any grievances which are left to fester can lead to rebellion and threaten the state. The way all the women gather at the birth while the men "Go wherever men go on such occasions" suggests feminism which is a contrast to the regime and a contradiction after the feminist movement of the 1960s was crushed by the creation of "Gilead". Offred comments on this by saying "You wanted a woman's culture. Well, now there is one. It isn't what you meant but it exists." The birth is a key element in the book as many themes and tensions are made clear where as without it there may not have been the opportunity for subjects such as the relationship between wives and handmaids to be made clear in a clear manner. ?? ?? ?? ?? Suzanne Carlisle

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