October 6, 2008
Literature Essay #1
In the Days of Anarchy
To live in a country such as the United States of America is considered a privilege. The liberties that American citizens are entitled to, as declared in the Constitution, makes the United States an attractive and envied democracy. It would be improbable to imagine these liberties being stripped from American society. However, Margaret Atwood depicts the United States as a dystopian society in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The first society is modern America, with its autonomy and liberal customs. The second, Gilead, a far cry from modern America, is a totalitarian Christian theocracy which absorbs America in the late 1980s in order to salvage it from widespread pollution and a dwindling birthrate. The principal flaw in Atwood’s Gileadian society is the justification of human rights violations. This justification only limits the liberties citizens experience, and taunts their once freeing rights, such as the prerogative to explore sexuality. Gilead’s only freedom, is freedom from all other liberties, or as Aunt Lydia would describe, freedom from the anarchy that unveiled in the first society.
The novel’s protagonist, Offred, uses two sets of images to recount the vast difference between a “freedom to” society, and a “freedom from” society. She recalls to the reader a photographic clarity of her previous life as an American woman with liberties, and also those of her present life as a handmaid, or slave to the Republic of Gilead. Aunt Lydia, who is responsible for teaching the enslaved women of Gilead how to be handmaids, attempts to fill the women with disgust for the dangers of outlawed practices, such as pornography, adultery, and abortion, while encouraging admiration towards the only reason for handmaid’s at all, fertility and Kinkhabwala 2
pregnancy. These outlawed practices that Gilead forbid however, are human rights that the citizens of the...
Cited: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid 's Tale. New York: Anchor, 1998. 24-73.
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