Literary Analysis of ‘the Handmaid’s Tale’

In the story The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood the city of Gilead demoralizes women in many ways. Forcing sex upon them, expecting them to take care of their spouse and family, and giving them little or no political power. Throughout the novel she specifically shows examples of the poor treatment of women.

“Can I be blamed for wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied. […] I can stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark, but I too am dry and white, hard, granular; it’s like running my hand over a plateful of dried rice; it’s like snow. […] I am like a room where things once happened and now nothing does, except the pollen of the weeds that grow up outside the window, blowing in as dust across the floor.” In the The Handmaid’s Tale, the demoralization of women was a normal thing. Women were treated more like objects than human beings. The city of Gilead stripped women of all statuses of their rights, forcing them to live out lives of servitude. Offred the main character in the book is a feminist and disagrees with government. “This is the kind of touch they like: folk art, archaic, made by women, in their spare time, from things that have no further use. A return to traditional values. Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?” She compares the woman of Gilead to art pieces. There once was a point in time where the women weren’t treated so poorly and actually had a role in society. Things used to be like how America is today where both women and men are equal. But as of now in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale the city of Gilead eliminates all the freedom and rights a woman should have in society.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the society manipulate the women to degrade themselves and please the government by honoring his demands of what he wants them to do with their bodies and not what God wants them to do. The women are looked down upon by men because they must submit to them and are used to only pleasure a man. However there were women who fought against the government like Offred, she was a feminist and stood up for herself as well as the other women.

Gilead was not always a controlling region but once over thrown by a group of that stood for total control things changed. The new group of men enforced controlling laws over women that caused a demoralization. The government then takes control of everyone, making Gilead less of a democratic America. The previous law were completely changed taking away rights and freedom of citizens especially women. Majority of the men are completely in agreement with the change and support the government’s treatment of women. Even when the commander took interest in Offred although she is a feminist, she made sure that instilled into her head that he had full control over her. There was no escaping demoralization.

In today’s society women have similar roles to those of men. They work, provide for their families, and are seen as equal to men. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are only good for bearing children for the ¨commanders¨ they were more of an object to a man then them actually being their wife. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the society is taken back to when women had no rights and were seen more like a man´s property that would be submissive to all of their husband’s needs. The handmaid’s’ roles in the novel are even worse than the former times as a “housewife.” When the handmaids become disobedient, they could be put to death or left in the wasteland of what used to be America. In today’s society women don’t have to obey a man´s commands, times have changed. The demoralization of women was a political tool that was used highly by men.

Even though the city of Gilead had a lot of feminist fighting for them they were still treated nothing more than an object rather than a human being with rights. They are views as sex toys. A key moment in the book is when Offred states “My nakedness is strange to me already. […] Did I really wear bathing suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs and back were on display, could be seen. Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely”. She was in the bathtub and started reminiscing, she was remembering how before Gilead, her body was perfect to her and nobody else’s opinion mattered. The city of Gilead made women feel like nothing but sextoys and baby carriers in order to allow the next generation to come.

“There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they’re called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can.” The government literally separates women from the rest of society. The government gets so bad and gruel that they even start separating the women from one another. Women were no longer to even communicate with unmarried men. This made life even tougher on the women of Gilead. “I said there was more than one way of living with your head in the sand and that if Moira thought she could create Utopia by shutting herself up in a women-only enclave she was sadly mistaken. Men were not just going to go away, I said. You couldn’t just ignore them.” Not allowing women to communicate with men wasn’t going to take away the fact that men still existed it would just make it more difficult for the women to talk to them and build with a man without getting punished. They were only in the society to strictly have sex only with men. This shows how strict the gender division rules had become in the city. The angels are not allowed to look or talk to the women anymore .The angels were forced to stand outside the gym backs facing toward us. Offred wanted the angels to look at her. The guards aren’t even allowed inside the building Offred is held in. This isolated the men and women even more.

In conclusion in The Handmaid’s tale they governed men and women to make men powerful and have a since of ownership over women and seize their rights as well as their freedom. women were forced to give their bodies away to men for their pleasure and to give them the children they want. There were women who fought against the government who were labeled as feminist and they tried to protect and gain back the rights and freedom of women.

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

Literary analysis of 'the handmaid's tale'. (2021, Mar 17). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

This paper was written and submitted by a fellow student

Our verified experts write
your 100% original paper on any topic

Check Prices

Having doubts about how to write your paper correctly?

Our editors will help you fix any mistakes and get an A+!

Get started
Leave your email and we will send a sample to you.
Go to my inbox