By Ioana Giurgia
Hope and Faith in the Face of Abuse and Oppression of Women
Lucretia Mott, a woman rights activist, once said, “The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.” In both The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Color Purple by Alice Walker women are obligated to endure a world controlled by men; where they have no say and are merely possessions. They live in societies that have separate rules for men and women: women cannot vote, read, and hold properties or jobs. For these females, rape and abuse is a normal occurrence that makes them believe there is no other alternative. Although the lead characters of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Color Purple rely solely on hope to acquire freedom, but it proves useless in the struggle to break the shackles put on by the abusive and oppressive men of their societies. In both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Color Purple the main female characters live in a male dominated society where the men surrounding them oppress their basic rights. Offred, the main character in The Handmaid’s Tale, lives in the Republic of Gilead; which is a totalitarian state where males overrule. Due to pollution and chemical spills, reproduction rates have grown dangerously low and women are forced to become breeders, mistresses, housekeepers, housewives, or handmaids – or exiled to the colonies (typically forced-labor camps where women are forced to clean up radioactive waste and die an agonizing death due to exposure). Handmaids are appointed to different couples whom are infertile and their only purpose is to bear a child for their assigned couple, “We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.” (Atwood 136) Offred is separated from her husband and daughter, and is forced to become a Handmaid for a Commander; Fred, and his wife Serena. Once a month when Offred is at the right point of her menstrual cycle; she is forced to have wordless sex with Fred, while Serena sits aside and holds Offred’s hands. Serena is there to insure that the sex they are having is not for sexual pleasure, but strictly for reproduction purposes, “Fake it, I scream at myself inside my head. You must remember how.” (Atwood 255) The rest of Offred’s time is restricted to her bedroom or taking trips to the grocery store: childbirth ceremonies, and executions. In the struggle to become pregnant, Offred begins having an affair with Fred. Fred treats Offred like an object; this can be seen in many instances. For example when Fred sneaks Offred out of the house she states, “He is showing me off, to them, they review my breasts, my legs, as if there is no reason why they should not.“ (Atwood 248) Offred agrees to this affair only because she is running out of time; if she does not get pregnant she will be sent off to the colonies. Although The Color Purple takes place in a different time period than The Handmaid’s Tale; men are oppressing women just the same. Celie is the main character in The Color Purple and is a black: uneducated, fourteen-year-old girl living in Georgia. Celie’s whole childhood; she is abused and raped by the man she thinks is her father: Alphonso, She gives birth to two of Alphonso’s babies, but he takes them from her and leads her to believe he killed them in the woods. Alphonso then sells Celie into a marriage with Mr._________ who abuses her as well, “Mr.__________ clam on top of me, do his business, in ten minutes us both sleep.” (Walker 30) Mr.___________ is not looking for a wife; he is looking for a servant“. In this time most women only served as companions or hostesses for their husbands and mothers for their children, but they were not allowed to hold properties or jobs. Celie wrote to god, “Men s’pose to wear the pants.” (Walker 46) This forces women to constantly fight with men or be completely ruled and trampled by them. Mr.________ constantly...
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Walker, Alice. The color purple: a novel. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. Print.
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