How Does Atwood present women in the Handmaid's Tale?

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How does Atwood present women in the handmaid’s tale?

Atwood presents women as intelligent, submissive, rebellious, ignorant and powerful. The narrator of the story, Offred is desperate to escape her life however she is fearful of the consequences of any rebellion, and ultimately submits to her fate. Offred is an intelligent, educated woman, and Atwood’s lexical choice demonstrates Offred’s understanding of words: “Larynx. I spell. Valance. Quince. Zygote.” Her intelligence is highly frustrating, as her stream of conscious thoughts is suppressed and internalised. If she was stupid and ignorant, she would find it easier to come to terms with her situation, however her crystal clear memories and vivid imagination provide an alternative reality that is painful to conceive: “I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling.” Atwood writes about a past world that all readers can relate to, a world that Offred took for granted: “I had a paper due next day. What was it? Psychology, English, Economics. We studied things like that then. On the floor of the room there were books, open face down, this way and that, extravagantly.”  Atwood presents Offred’s intelligence and her appreciation of words and language as a way of expressing herself and remaining true to her past. Atwood’s presentation of a future where women’s only function is as vessel for childbirth has a deeper poignancy considering over the past 50 years women have been fighting for freedom, equality, and to be considered on an equal intellectual level as men. It seems that Atwood believes this equality is incredibly fragile and easily breakable, and if, for some reason procreation becomes a desperate necessity for society rather than an individual’s emotional decision, it would be justified that woman should relinquish other roles and responsibilities for the “good of mankind.”

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Atwood also presents women as submissive and subservient, unable or unwilling to change their situations. Gilead is a society constructed by men, and Offred and her fellow handmaids are stripped of all personal possessions, taken away from their families, and their identities destroyed. The handmaids are categorized, given numbers and turned into disposable commodities, their only unique identity being a name defined by the men who control them. However, whilst Offred deplores the situation she is in, she often remains passive, just as she did when the regime first came into power, choosing to wait and see the outcome ...

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This is very good material indeed, demonstrating a high level control of lexis and structure. Points are well made, with skillful and apt support from textual references. Insight into the roles of the various women characters in the novel is penetrating and clearly expressed. The essay falls down firstly by not having a clearly-expressed introduction and thesis, therefore making it hard for the reader to judge the essay writer's achievement. Secondly, there is no summary or conclusion at the end, which would serve to show how the claims made in the introduction have been supported by analysis. With these changes, the essay could attain 5 stars. 4 stars