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Gilead Quote Analysis

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  • April 12, 2013
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Offred and Ofglen are standing by the Wall, looking at the bodies of people who have been hanged by Gilead. The sight horrifies Offred, but she strains to push aside her repugnance and substitute an emotional “blankness.” As she represses her natural revulsion, she remembers Aunt Lydia's words about how life in Gilead will “become ordinary.” Aunt Lydia's statement reflects the power of a totalitarian state like Gilead to transform a natural human response such as revulsion at an execution into “blankness,” to transform horror into normalcy. Aunt Lydia's words suggest that Gilead succeeds not by making people believe that its ways are right, but by making people forget what a different world could be like. Torture and tyranny become accepted because they are “what you are used to.”  

This quotation, from the end of Chapter 7, reflects the connection between Offred's story, her readers, her lost family, and her inner state. These words suggest that Offred is not recounting events from afar, looking back on an earlier period in her life. Rather, she is describing the horror of Gilead as she experiences it from day to day. For Offred, the act of telling her story becomes a rebellion against her society. Gilead seeks to silence women, but Offred speaks out, even if it is only to an imaginary reader, to Luke, or to God. Gilead denies women control over their own lives, but Offred's creation of a story gives her, as she puts it, “control over the ending.” Most important, Offred's creation of a narrative gives her hope for the future, a sense that “there will be an ending . and real life will come after it.” She can hope that someone will hear her story, or that she will tell it to Luke someday. Offred has found the only avenue of rebellion available in her totalitarian society: she denies Gilead control over her inner life.  

This passage is from Chapter 13, when Offred sits in the bath, naked, and contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she...