Handmaids Tale - Power and Control

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‘How is Gilead presented as a place of power and control in the opening chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale?’ The Republic of Gilead is the fictional country which Margaret Atwood chose as the setting for her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. We can infer from the first chapter that Gilead is within the borders of the USA from the fact that ‘old’ blankets still said US: this hints that some sort of major catastrophe has occurred before the time of the novel to change this. The first few chapters suggest a lot about the setting, and also how the transition of the country from being the United States of America to the Republic of Gilead may not have been a particularly positive one. The novel of The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the political oppression of women and how the new theocratic government of the Republic of Gilead manipulates the Bible into promoting the control of women. The first chapter opens with ‘We slept in what had once been the gymnasium’. If schools are being used to house women, then they cannot be used for education. This is a form of indoctrination - a way of avoiding a rise in support of any other ideas within the younger generation, or anything that would be counter-productive to the way Gilead is run. We later learn that the new regime states that women are not allowed to read in Gilead at all, and even the shop names have been painted out to remove this ‘temptation’. Money has also been exchanged for pictured vouchers, which again shows how the state obviously feels that if they can control women’s minds, the better they can control their bodies. Offred recalls how an Aunt once told her that where she’ll end up ‘is not a prison but a privilege’, and the fact that the Aunt felt the need to say this shows how the Commander’s house would be a place of strict control. The women who live in the gymnasium are not allowed to communicate, shown by how they ‘learned to lip read’ at night in the dimmed light. They are under constant surveillance...
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