How Far is The Handmaids Tale a Dystopian Text, Specifically at the Regime of Gilead and its Successes and Flaws?

Authors Avatar
How Far is The Handmaids Tale a Dystopian Text, Specifically at the Regime of Gilead and its Successes and Flaws? ‘The Handmaids Tale’ is set in a society where everything is wrong, which would usually suggest that it was a dystopian novel, yet while a ‘dystopia’ is generally defined as a society ‘in which the conditions of life are extremely bad as from deprivation or oppression or terror’ this is clearly not the whole case when it comes to Gilead. This is because while there are many aspects of the regime which are unjust and morally wrong compared to modern values, there are certain parts of the society which are improved. This is shown quite clearly in Atwood's depiction of freedom and imprisonment. One of the main expressions used within the novel is ‘Freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’. We are told that in Gilead you are given freedom from, as opposed to in our modern ‘days of anarchy’ where we have freedom to do as we please. It is this difference that affects the Gileadean society, and through this the whole of Atwood's novel, and what ultimately makes it a dystopia.   Despite being obviously morally wrong (for instance, Handmaids are practically raped weekly in order to bear a child for their ‘commander’, and that only heterosexual white people are allowed in the regime) many of the people in Gilead do not rebel. This is because they are scared of what might happen if they do. There are ‘eyes’ dotted all over the country who will have them executed if they rebel. Offred is even scared of reading the ‘FAITH.’ cushion in her bedroom, as ‘It's the only thing they've given me to read.’ She is worried that If she is ‘caught doing it, would it count?’ and goes on to defend her actions before she is reprimanded, worriedly telling herself that she ‘didn't put the cushion here myself’ Offred is very aware that simple things like putting butter on her face as ‘makeshift moisturiser’ may have her killed. This fear shows how much control the regime has over people; they can barely move for fear of being taken away to the ‘colonies’ to die. However, the fear has another side to it; the people in The Handmaid’s Tale (especially the women) can live without fear of certain things. Although they live in fear of being killed for disagreeing with the Gileadean regime, they are mostly safe in the knowledge that they have ‘freedom from’ murder, violence
Join now!
and rape (however, the very point of being a handmaid is to agree to being raped forcibly, so this is an oxymoron). This is especially true in the case of the Handmaids, who would be protected above all because of their fertility.    However, something the people in Gilead do not get ‘freedom from’ is surveillance. When walking through town, Offred and Ofglen have to go through security checks, past ‘two men, who stand at attention, stiffly, by a roadblock, watching our retreating shapes”. Throughout the novel Offred is all too wary of the ‘big brother’ state in which she is ...

This is a preview of the whole essay