• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3

Comment on the portrayal of the Aunts in 'The Handmaid's Tale', their role in Gilead and the attitude of the narrator towards them.

Extracts from this document...


Comment on the portrayal of the Aunts in 'The Handmaid's Tale', their role in Gilead and the attitude of the narrator towards them. In the hierarchical society of Gilead, each woman is given an arbitrary classification, to which she has been brainwashed to obey. The Aunts are the indoctrinators of the system, who perhaps play one of the most crucial roles in the novel, training and brainwashing the Handmaids to fulfil their duties. The Aunts train from the 'Red Centre'. The majority of Atwood's books are based around feminism and or religion. Here she uses the memorable characters of the Aunts, in particular Aunt Lydia, to successfully combine the two, and therefore produce a potential near future. The Aunts themselves are of an older generation, who perhaps felt that the introduction of the new regime would bring back a more traditional, and therefore 'safer' way of life, perhaps increasing their determination to enforce the new system. Many females often comment (usually in an off hand manner) on how the downfall of society has been caused by male rule and dominance; leading to the phrase, "If only women ruled the world!" ...read more.


This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary." In this sense, she can be perceived as a motherly figure, to whom the Handmaids could turn to. However, there is a lack of intimacy usually associated with mother/daughter relationship, the Aunts and the Handmaids have more of a teacher/pupil relationship. The Aunt's lessons are obviously conducted and well calculated, due to the fact Offred seems to have memorized many of Aunt Lydia's phrases, "Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry grounds or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted." These poignant words emphasise the pressure enforced onto the Handmaids to conceive and succeed by quietly conforming to the dictatorial regime. However there is also a more sinister and intolerant side to the Aunt's characters, and their authority is accentuated by the, "...electric cattle prods slung on thongs from their leather belts." However their status does not permit them to be, "trusted with guns" as the male guards are. ...read more.


Never forget it. To be seen - to be seen - is to be-her voice trembled - penetrated." However, Offred also feels resentment and sheer hatred towards them due to the enforcement they inflicted onto her friend Moira-a feminist against Gilead, "They took her into a room that used to be the Science Lab. It was a room none of us ever went willingly. Afterwards she could not walk for a week, her feet would not fit into her shoes, they were too swollen...they looked like lungs." However, whatever our narrator feels towards them, it is obvious she cannot forget their chilling messages of conspiracy. Due to the slight mystery behind the Aunts themselves, regarding their backgrounds and true attitudes towards the regime, we are left feeling rather unsatisfied by their characters. Due to the style of Atwood's writing, which really involves the reader into the emotional turmoil of the narrator, one takes on a similar attitude as Offred-an arrange of mixed feelings. However, these generally tend to lean towards the loathing of the Aunts at their patronizing and rather annoying remarks. After all they are the enforcers of the regime who appear to hold little sympathy towards their fellow females. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Margaret Atwood essays

  1. Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in The Handmaids Tale

    We studied things like that, then." Giving them a chance to have a career of their own, which earn them their own money allowing them to have choice of what they wanted to buy. Women had much more independence allowing them to think for themselves and make the choices they wanted which I will elaborate on later.

  2. Explore the issues concerning women and feminism raised in the novel The Handmaid's tale.

    After her disappearance from the Red Centre, Moira becomes a fantasy for the other Handmaid's. Because of her rebellion, the Aunts are 'less fearsome and more absurd,' for their power is somehow flawed. And yet the Handmaids also find something frightening in Moira's freedom.

  1. 19th Century short stories - womens rights

    However, we can see that Tanya has a positive effect on the men. When the narrator is writing about Tanya, the language used is more optimistic and attractive than before; "heavy ceiling" compared to "laughing blue eyes". Men of the nineteenth century were aware that they were superior to women.

  2. The Handmaid's Tale Essay

    Indeed, the official penalty for r**e is dreadful, in one scene; the Handmaid's tear apart a supposed r****t. However whilst Gilead claims to repress s****l violence, it in actual fact allows it, as can be seen in the Jezebel's section.

  1. The Handmaid's Tale

    valuing of women as fertility devices to be used by the men to whom they serve. This basic hierarchal structure, with the men predominantly ruling the women, further encourages this conclusion, with the power lying in the hands of men.

  2. What I have learnt so far about the Regime in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    The women in the gymnasium live under the constant surveillance of the Angels and the Aunts, who guarded and taught them, patrolling at night with electric cattle prods and leather belts allowing no interaction with one another. The Angels and Aunts portray a hierarchy image with biblical name titles clearly implying that they are more powerful than the other women.

  1. The Handmaid's Tale - Read back over the opening six chapters - Write about ...

    an Angel in Biblical terms is a highly positive spirit for protection. In the Handmaid's Tale, 'Angels' are at the very top of the hierarchy. They represent oppression, violence, male chauvinism and evil in its purest form. Their man-made fundamentalist religion shares resemblance to infamous regimes such as the Puritans', Hitler's Germany and Stalinist Russia.

  2. Was The Handmaid's Tale written from a feminist or anti-feminist perspective?

    The knowledge that this patriarchal system is already in existence helps to convince the reader that the Republic of Gilead is a possibility. 'No new system can impose itself upon a previous one without incorporating many of the elements to be found in the latter'(Attwood,1985:317)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work