The Handmaids Tale

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Republic of Gilead Pages: 3 (1103 words) Published: December 3, 2013

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a post Cold War society plagued by infertility. Atwood presents the reader with “The Republic of Gilead”, the Christian theocracy that overthrew the United States government. Narrated by a woman renamed Offred, the reader gets an idea of a future in which women are no longer women, but are solely needed for reproduction. Atwood uses a system of vocabulary established under the Republic of Gilead in order to manipulate and dehumanize women and men throughout the text. Under this new society women are defined under their gender roles. No longer are women allowed to hold jobs, make an income, or have control over their body. Men on the other hand are referred to by their military rank. Women are then placed into the group in which the Republic of Gilead finds fitting. Some sent off to reproduce children, others to work and wait for a slow cruel death. Offred is what the Republic of Gilead labels a handmaid. A handmaid’s sole purpose is to produce a child for elite families of the Republic. Handmaids are stripped from their own clothes and are forced to wear all red. A floor length dress that gives the handmaid no shape, red shoes, and red gloves. The color red is extremely symbolic towards their position in society. The red clothing could be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Red is the color of a women’s menstrual blood. Therefore the wearing of red deems the handmaids one of the few fertile women among society. However, in history red has been a marker of sexual sin. The handmaids are essentially having sex with married men. All handmaids are immediately stripped of their birth name and put under possession of the commander. Offred receives this name because her commander’s name is Fred, and she is “of” Fred. This is the Republic of Gilead’s way of literally dehumanizing and stripping the handmaid’s from any personalization. I looked up the definition of the word “handmaiden”, and it is...
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