The Handmaid's Tale - Escape

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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood is a dystopian novel in which the main character – Offred – seeks to escape from the constraints of her environment. The writer takes things from the past and skews them throughout the novel, creating a much more relative feel to the otherwise very unrealistic story. In the environment, Offred has no way of physically escaping - instead, the responds to her situation by getting lost in her memories and thoughts. This feature of the novel is what helps the reader to identify the central concerns of the novel whilst the unique narrative structure engages the reader and incurs a better response to the plot.

The setting of the novel is important in revealing its main concerns as the writer sets the novel in a (formerly) very well developed and democratic country. The fact that Gilead takes away the freedom of its citizens creates an interesting contrast between the past and the present whilst also revealing the main theme of power. This is similar to Offred who also takes comfort in the past as it is her way of escaping her present – she often refers to it, enabling the reader to identify the central themes of the novel. The chapters in which Offred escapes through her thoughts are entitled ‘night’ and it seems this is so, due to the fact this is when she is most lonely. Previously, at night Offred would have been able to reflect on her day – the good and bad things - and now that nothing good happens in her days she is forced to look back on what once was. The theme of power is firmly established in the novel when Atwood informs the reader that Gilead was once known as Cambridge, Boston Massachusetts - the home of Harvard University – the writer does this by describing Harvard's iconic structure; “Most of the buildings are red brick too; some have arched doorways, a Romanesque effect”. Formerly, people would go to the University to become whatever they wanted and to empower...
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