In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, there are a lot of displays of sexual acts against woman in efforts to belittle them. The prevalence of rape and pornography in the pre-Gilead world justified to the founders their establishment of the new order. The Commander and the Aunts claim that women are better protected in Gilead, that they are treated with respect and kept safe from violence. Certainly, the official penalty for rape is terrible: in one scene, the Handmaids tear apart with their bare hands a supposed rapist. Yet, while Gilead claims to suppress sexual violence, it actually institutionalizes it. For example at Jezebel’s, the club that provides the Commanders with a ready stable of prostitutes to service the male elite. Most important, sexual violence is apparent in the central institution of the novel, the Ceremony, which compels Handmaids to have sex with their Commanders.
Despite the various acts of sexual violence between the Commander and Handmaids there seems to be a change in how the Commander is treating Offred. Instead of forcing sex upon the handmaid there is a sort of bond between the two and Offred feels more comfortable around this man. It is hard to predict whether the Commander is plotting something or if he built up feelings for Offred and treats her as if she is a Wife. It is revealed that the same thing happened to the previous Handmaid but Serena found out about the engagements. Throughout the novel, betrayal remains the over-arching theme, seen in men’s betrayal of women as well as the reason behind abandoning all sense of self and former relationships. Society’s betrayal of women as a whole leads Gilead to a power hierarchy which leaves handmaids no choice but to betray themselves by giving in to the society which strips them of identity and leaves them with no personal relationships and a constant trial to stay alive. Stuck in a society that has stripped all meaning and emotion from sex, and...
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