“Something Could Be Exchanged… We Still Had Our Bodies.” (Chapter 1) How Are the Women in the Handmaid’s Tale Both Oppressed and the Oppressors?

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Human sexual behavior, Sexual intercourse Pages: 4 (1373 words) Published: June 20, 2013
“Something could be exchanged… we still had our bodies.” (Chapter 1) How are the women in The Handmaid’s Tale both oppressed and the oppressors? Atwood’s novel portrays strong feminist ideas throughout the tale, suggesting how women could become oppressed in the future. The Giledean state runs its laws and regulations based on extreme biblical views. In the bible Rachel couldn’t bare Jacob children, so she made her maid conceive children with Jacob this concept of the bible is portrayed in this novel by Atwood using the Handmaids as instruments of reproduction. These sexual acts are called ‘The Ceremony’, and this is when the Handmaids and their Commander attempt to conceive a child. Although it is clear that females are oppressed in Gilead, it could be argued that they hold an advantage and may even be oppressors themselves.

The title reveals that the reader will learn of a ‘tale’, and this advocates that this piece of writing will be unreliable. Atwood could have used the title of the novel to foreshadow the chaotic and almost random narrative to come. The Handmaid’s Tale title suggests oppression and possession of women through the apostrophe. Moreover, Atwood expresses deprivation of personal possessions through Offred in Chapter 1. ‘We still had our bodies’; Atwood has stressed upon the fact that the Handmaids still had their bodies despite their deficiency of other belongings. However, she then contradicts this idea with the apostrophe in the title, suggesting that her character, Offred, has a tale of her own to tell which is according to her own free will.

At the end of chapter one Atwood presents us with the Handmaids names; ‘Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.’ Failing to reveal the identity of Offred immediately engages the reader of any era as any human being fears or despises the thought of the unknown. Their names set side by side but separated by full stops could be Atwood trying to declare that women are individuals, yet the list-like...
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