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Women in the Handmaid's Tale: Objectification and Value in Reproductive Qualities.

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Women in the Handmaid's Tale: Objectification and Value in Reproductive Qualities Sarah Bell Eng. 110.6 (19) J. Stothers Feb. 26/2004 Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale is a work of speculative fiction. The Republic of Gilead is a dystopic society, especially for the women. Women in the novel are stripped of their freedom, while men are entitled to a portion of their freedom. This novel is one that illustrates inequality towards women. A focus for the Republic of Gilead is to increase the declining birth rate. Within the phallocentric society of the Republic of Gilead, re-population results in women being objectified and valued for their reproductive qualities. The division of women in the Republic of Gilead is based on their reproductive qualities and status. Anatomy is destiny in the society of the Republic of Gilead. Wives are classified as elite and are typically infertile. These infertile women usually have gardens to compensate for their lack of child bearing qualities: "many of the wives have such gardens, it's something for them to order and maintain and care for" (p. ...read more.


30). Widows are typically seen in black, the color of mourning. Handmaids wear red which is representative of blood, menses, and birth: "red: the color of blood, which defines us" (p. 9). Unwomen wear gray, which is the color of ashes. Women that work at Jezebel's as prostitutes are not restricted to uniforms like the rest of the women in the Republic of Gilead. They wear outdated costumes from the time before that are highly eroticized. For women in the Republic of Gilead, there is no freedom of choice in attire. Women in the Republic of Gilead are objectified, viewed as property, controlled and lack freedom. The mobility of women throughout society is strictly controlled: "a rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze" (p. 206). Women are viewed as the property of men, especially the Handmaids of the Commanders. Handmaid's names are not their own but are names associated with ownership of a Commander. The name Offred refers to of Fred, therefore Offred is the property of her 3 Commander Fred. ...read more.


91). Women in the novel are valued as bodies, and are sometimes reduced to parts of bodies. For Handmaids, pregnancy is viewed as their only salvation. Strong feelings of hope and failure are common for Handmaids. Janine's pregnancy is a symbol of hope for the Handmaids: "she's a magic presence to us, an object of envy and desire, we covet her. She's a flag on a hilltop, showing us what can still be done: we too can be saved" (p. 33). Offred feels failure every month with menstration: "each month I watch for blood, fearfully, for when it comes it means failure" (p. 91). When a Handmaid successfully bears a child, she is rewarded: "she'll never be sent to the Colonies, she'll never be declared Unwoman. That is her reward" (p. 159). Handmaids see pregnancy as their salvation because they will ultimately be rewarded. The result of re-population in the Republic of Gilead is the objectification and value of reproductive qualities for women. Women in the Republic of Gilead live in a male dominated society, which leads to female inequality. The greatest source of inequality surfaces from the Republic of Gilead trying to increase the birth rate. The society of the Republic of Gilead is dystopic. ...read more.

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