Discuss The Handmaids Tale as a significant dystopian novel. What affect can it have on the reader?

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Discuss The Handmaids Tale as a significant dystopian novel. What affect can it have on the reader?

A good dystopian novel creates a sense of fear and control. To create this feeling in The Handmaids Tale Margaret Atwood gives all the hallmarks of a totalitarian society called Gilead. Dystopias offer worlds where characters can choose freedom or happiness, but not both. Women in Atwood’s novel have a central sense of the individual’s importance. Individuality is crushed in George Orwell’s “1984”, but forms the source of politics and character in The Handmaid’s Tale. The Handmaids Tale extends the dystopian genre. This is what makes The Handmaid’s Tale a good example of a dystopian novel.

Gilead is a state which uses propaganda to further the ideology of the society. Atwood creates the feeling of fear by putting an almost military like force in control. Propaganda is used in many ways to influence the Handmaid’s. The Aunts act as teachers in The Red Centre and are assigned to each household to keep the Handmaid’s in line. They teach them about the rules of Gilead and how they should act, they do this by means of propaganda. They show the handmaid’s old pornographic films and photographs. They also damn the previous society by emphasising that women in “the old days” were disgusting and how they didn’t respect themselves.

 An Aunt has got to fulfil this powerful authority to be thought of as useful and to take away or ease their fear of being shipped away as they are infertile. They enforce the law not only by propaganda but also by using physical violence.

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“No guns though, even they couldn’t be trusted with guns” (1)

This quote is important as it illustrates the social status of the Aunts. No one can be trusted. Gilead won’t take the risk of an Aunt possibly ruining the controlled, calm environment.

 They need to keep up their role as “police women” because Gilead revolves around the idea of raising the birth rate, and anyone who is unable to give birth or is of no use is frowned upon within the society. Gilead uses the terms “unwoman” (a woman who is unable to have children) and “unbaby” (a ...

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