The Handmaid's Tale Critique

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Arthur C. Clarke Award Pages: 2 (832 words) Published: March 7, 2012
he Handmaid’s Tale- Fertility of Women Critique
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Gilead rose to power in large part because no one was making babies any more. Even though baby making is a two-person process, society has shifted all the blame for infertility onto women. “There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that's the law” (Atwood 18). Margaret Atwood’s use of certain motifs such as flowers and eggs portray this constant theme of Women’s bodies used as only a device to produce offspring. Atwood does a great job portraying this theme by the political structure of the novel. Gilead's solution to this problem is to separate out the few fertile women left to powerful men and their wives. In order to make this seem legitimate and proper, the government has made people follow Ceremonies and read the Bible before engaging in a very specific kind of sex. In order to make it seem like a baby born to a Handmaid will really belong to the wife, the man and the Handmaid are required to have businesslike, non-erotic sex with the wife present. The Handmaid lies between the wife's legs while the man has sex with the Handmaid. This arrangement is similar in childbirth, if the household is lucky enough s to get to that point. The wife sits with her legs around the Handmaid as she is giving birth. Despite all these arrangements, nothing is working and not enough babies are being born. Everybody is secretly breaking the rules. We're constantly reminded of the lovelessness and absence of eroticism in this society, as well as the absence of choice and free will. Throughout the book, the narrator makes references to or compares women to flowers. For example, the Commander and Serena Joy's house is completely explained in floral imagery: there's a "watercolor picture of blue irises" (4) in the narrator's room; the bathroom is "papered in small blue flowers, forget-me-nots" (21); the master bedroom is...
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