The Handmaid's Tale

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Totalitarianism, Science fiction Pages: 6 (2253 words) Published: December 3, 2013
Throughout the entire text of The Handmaid's Tale, the ruling totalitarian government does what is in its power to attempt to isolate women from society. Not only do are the women isolated from society in terms of sexual contact (or any contact, for that matter), with men, but they are also individualized within the gender itself and separated from each other. Evidence of this isolation is available throughout the novel in different levels. The first level, perhaps the harshest, is the division of genders, with women like the Handmaids unable to communicate with unmarried men. Offred's separation from men is apparent when she compares herself to the "power of a dog bone" (29), but the bone is "held out of reach" (29). This depicts how there is a strict gender division that disallows them to even communicate with each other, much less have sex. For the Angels, they are not even allowed to look at the so-called dog bone. When we are first introduced to the idea of the Angels, Offred mentions that the Angels must stand outside of the gymnasium "with their backs to us" (10). Offred wishes that they would only look at her and if only "something could be exchanged" (10). The guards of the complex Offred is held in at the beginning of the novel aren't even allowed inside it. With the men not allowed in the Red Center and the women now allowed outside of it, they are each isolated from each other.

Even though women are isolated from men, they are also separated from each other. Women are segregated further into social classes, such as the Handmaid or the lowly Econowife. These women are separated by their function of society, and they are identified with the color they wear. Handmaids wear red, which Offred is opposed to because she "never looked good in red" (14). Her opposition to the color shows the limits of her decision-making (if it can be argued that she makes any at all). All women are separated according to their colors, whether it was red, the green that the Marthas wear, black, or the ugly stripes of the Econowives. While all women were separated into classes, identifiable by their color, this was not the end of Offred's removal from society.

Even between women of the same class, Offred being a Handmaid, communication is still heavily regulated. Even before she is a Handmaid, when she is in the gymnasium, the other women and she are held with little sense of community. They can only reach out and touch one another "when the Aunts weren't looking" (10) in the dark, showing the sense of separating between women and the enforcement of that separation from women of a different class, the Aunts. When Offred and another Handmaid are "allowed" to be together (allowed in the sense that it is an illusion that is really an attempt to keep them in line by preying on their fears that the other may be an Eye), they are almost afraid to talk to one another. "Praise be" (28) is just one of the many examples of the automated responses that the Handmaids are able to give each other and anyone else they come into contact with. The mistrust of Handmaids even between one another caused by the Eyes further separates Offred, and indeed all other women.

This separation causes a large conflict to Offred, and the idea of the novel as a composition of her thoughts is an act of rebellion against that isolation. She thrives on the idea that if she tells her story she is creating a community. Any story that is told must have an audience, so by narrating her story she is "believing [the reader] into being" (267) and creating a community of her own. Throughout the entire novel, Offred is trying to create a community. The Latin that is carved into the wood of 'her(?)' room gives her a sense of connection with someone, even if they had never met. She makes up a story for this person, how they may have actually escaped, and thinking up a story for her to believe makes the person who was there before her real, and she would feel some sort of...
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