The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood takes place in the dystopian society of Gilead. Offred the story’s narrator lives in Gilead and was taken against her will to become an Handmaid. The woman in Gilead have lost their freedom and are succumbed to the strict orders of Gilead. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the class divisions between woman, and the use of first person point of view reveal that in today’s society women are still enduring oppression by being silenced, and the lack of autonomy and identity.
Initially, The Handmaids have gotten their rights and freedom stripped away from them without a say which highlights how women often aren’t accepted if they are independent. Offred and the Handmaids are not allowed to wear read or write they whisper and lip read to each other in order to communicate. If the Handmaid’s were given the power to read and write that could become a threat to the male dominated society of Gilead. Furthermore, since they are prohibit to read or write that suggests that reading and writing is an important tool for freedom of expression, taking that away from the woman in Gilead not only the Handmaids would result in a form of independence and that is not acceptable due to the fact that woman in Gilead such as the Wives and Handmaids are controlled. In addition, While Ofglen and Offred were walking together they are surrounded by japanese tourist who begin to ask them questions that they are not allowed to respond to. She pretends as she doesn’t hear them and doesn’t respond to any of their questions. Here we can see that the Handmaids are not allow to express themselves, The Handmaids are made up of different woman who probably have their own beliefs and opinions but they are reduced to believe in the same ideologies as the commanders and aunts who enforce these beliefs on to them. The women of gilead are divided in class divisions by color, the Handmaids are dressed in red, Wives dressed in blue, Marthas in green, Aunts in Brown, and daughters in white. Because they are broken into caste system that establishes how they have lost their sense of individuality, since they are color coded that symbolizes order and repression. Clothing can express one’s personality, uniqueness, and overall it is a way to express yourself as your own person.
Moreover, Offred has to abide by the rules of Gilead such as being a Handmaid, following orders, and even silencing herself as a means of survival which highlights that Woman follow societal norms in order to meet society’s expectations rather than being cast out and seen as an outsider. All the Handmaid’s have to go through a mandatory ceremony where they have intercourse with the commander in order to conceive. The handmaid’s they have a role to complete, they are expected to have children. Similar to married woman today who as their role as a wife they are expected to support their husbands no matter what although they may disagree they don’t have much of a say. Meanwhile, Offred starts to the see the commander in his office and they begin to play games together where it involves reading and writing which is forbidden. But if she were to refuse the commander show would face severe consequences. Essentially, what Offred is doing is playing along with commander although she knows that her life is at risk and she will be seen as strange because the Handmaids are known to be controlled and taught and if she were to resist she would be seen as a rebellious woman who would not be welcomed in society. On the other hand, the Handmaids are used for reproductive reasons. Woman that are fertile are only used as handmaids. However, older woman are considered unwoman due to their inability to conceive are sent to the colonies because they don’t have a purpose. Due to the unwoman not falling into the the standards of Gilead that confirms how quickly women can be unaccepted if don’t blend in with society, a certain group, community.If you had the status of an handmaid you were considered valuable to society and in a sense the driving force of it.
Without a doubt, The Handmaid’s Tale sheds a light on political and social issues that unfortunately are still seen in our society today. For instance, although the oppression of woman is not as severe as it was in the 1900’s there are certain issues that can contribute to the continuing oppression of women. Such as, how women are not able to express themselves through their individuality without receiving judgement of others that in turn makes them feel as if they have to do what society wants in order to fit in. Furthermore, women in different ways are still oppressed today. For example, in marriages the expectation of a wife is to let her husband make all the decisions be the man of the household and put aside her wants or needs in order to accommodate her husband’s desires. As you can see, our society is still flawed, a way we can combat these issues is to ensure that we see each others as equal and not give in into other’s biases, our own biases, and the norms of society.