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The Handmaid's Tale as a Feminist Dystopia

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The Handmaid's Tale as a Feminist Dystopia

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  • October 2010
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Extended Response to The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, written in the 1980s, is a highly complex post-modern dstopian text that explores the issues of feminism. The dystopian genre attacks the myth of a utopia, bringing all possibilities to an extreme while the term post modernism explores the consequences of monocracy on modern society and the dynamics of language. Atwood’s use of a female perspective on a hypothetical dystopian society enables her to pursue the controversy of feminism, the impact of power play in a patriarchal society on individuals and the subjective nature of narrative. A better understanding of the text can be gained from the study of Atwood’s execution of language to portray meanings and the role language plays in the narrator’s to survival oppression.

Atwood shows that language is a very powerful mechanism that asserts personhood and allows resistance against oppression. Despite being subject to reduction as a handmaid, Offred manages to maintain control over her narration; as exemplified in her construction of her multiple narratives to generate hope and purpose in life. The repetition of “I also believe” suggests the endless possibilities of her narrative and her reliance on her fantasy to reassure herself about the future. This also reminds the reader that Offred’s narrative is a reconstruction of information and feelings. The pronoun, “I” affirms Offred’s will power as well as her initiative to gain control. Descartes’ declaration “I think, therefore I am” integrates well with Offred’s circumstance where she is developing a new self as a documentation of her old self within her narratives. The conflict between Offred’s past and present through her constant reference of her previous life reinforces the interconnection between reality and memory. Furthermore, on psychological level, the multiple truths she holds give her advantage over the actual truth. “Whatever the truth is, I will be ready for it.” Offred’s...

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