Margaret Atwood / The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s saga book was written by Margaret Atwood, and deeply delves into the views and roles that women played in the republic of Gilead. This was a country, formed within boarders of United States of America. Gilead comprised of racists, chauvinistic men, naïve women with the military group serving the overall authority. The essay explores different roles played by women in Gilead giving both men and women their respective characters and consequences for their actions. Men are defined as chauvinistic as defined by the various roles they amplify in the essay. According to the book, women are also classified according to their respective roles. These roles are categorized as age, classes and the fertility in women. The story concludes with remedies and recommendations concerning the different matters arising from the book.
One class of women was referred to as the Handmaids, who were trained at the Red Center through exercises that led to their new identities. A group of women called Aunts was responsible for the training and they used brainwashing techniques to impart the defined roles without any level of resistance. The trainees were denied freedom because they had been entitled to the role of having children for the privileged and childless families in the republic of Gilead. According to the Handmaid’s tale, women were treated like objects because they were denied identity by making them forget their names. Instead, they were identified by numbers tattooed on their bodies. These women were also made to believe that they were the cause of the past troubles experienced in the society, shifting the whole blame upon them. From this, we see that women were used as scapegoats despite the period that they were born and brought up in. Gilead presents a scene from which we see that sexes were strictly at odds. The tale also shows that there was racism in this land because reproduction by white women was appreciated more than the reproduction by other women.
The narrator was assigned to a commander’s house where the characters of the privileged are portrayed. She also gives an experience of the former Handmaid in the commander’s house. When the narrator arrived to the commander’s house, she is assigned the name Offred. Offred was put in an isolated room wearing a humble outfit. According to the book, commanders were women battlers and chauvinists. This is portrayed when Offred discovered a message from the previous handmaid stamped into her closet. There was a warning to Offred that taunted her not to let her spirit be crushed by the commander whom she called a bastard. The republic of Gilead held women as inferior beings where they were ordered around work by men and in the techniques of work so desired. In addition, the commander’s house offers advancement in the categories that existed in the society. The Marthas were responsible for all the household work but they were infertile. The novel shows that women are classified according to their class status, their reproductive capability and their skin color. Moreover, it also made it clear that women should not be educated hence they were considered to intellectually and expressively inferior.
On the other hand, men possessed a lot of power and their superiority was marked by the clothes that they wore. Just like in the case of women, roles and duties were also important to men because they used to classify them into different categories and the lifestyles. According to the novel, men were empowered by what they wore while it was the other way round in the world of women. Different classes of men and women had different colors that defined them. The high status men could be easily identified by the armed forces or paramilitary uniforms that they wore. All individuals from the low status were regulated by another distinct code of dressing. We see that the politics of the republics of Gilead were unfair because both men and women who were referred to as non-persons were put to the colonies that were the settlements to tidy toxic waste. They had grey colored clothing. Commanders belonged to a social class that made decisions and set political policies upon the society. Commanders had privileges like having a Handmaid, a wife, a household, guardians and Marthas. Commanders had black uniforms to indicate superiority. In the novel, the narrator indicates that commanders had the right to reproduce but many were infertile. There were also those people whose work was to keep an eye to find out the people who violated the Gilead rules. The Angels were permitted to marry. Their work was to fight in wars to enlarge and to protect the countries border. Males who were regarded to as gender traitors due to being homosexuals were executed. In Gilead, women were put in different classifications based on their functions.
Women also used to be ranked according to the roles they performed in that society. They also had different type of clothing to differentiate their ranks and lifestyle. Looking at the novel Wives were the top social rank allowed to the women in the society. They used to wear blue and their work was to raise the children of the commanders. The Econowives were the substandard wives. They were the most overworked women of the Gilead society. Their work was to carry out all the household procedure that was to give birth, bring up children and taking care of the family. The Econowives were married to a man whose rank was low and their dress was covered with different colors that are red, blue and green to be a sign of this multiple jobs. The Marthas are the older women who are considered infertile. They usually had an obedient nature and domestic skills, which were required for them to work at the privileged houses.
Marthas used to dress in green. In the ruling class, there were daughters who were either natural or adopted children. It is found that the Narrators daughter was adopted a commander and his infertile wife. The handmaids played an important role to the ruling class. They were considered fertile and their work was to bear children for the wives. They used to wear clothes that were baggy so that men could not be tempted. Handmaids were produced from fertile women who had broken the genders and public laws. Nature of the Handmaids was justified from the biblical stories of Jacob and his wives. The Aunts were the trainees of the Handmaids and used to monitor them. The Aunts used to promote the act of Handmaids by making it look admirable. Aunts were considered to do all the dirty job of men for them. By becoming an Aunt, it was the only option left for single, infertile and frequently older women survive in freedom at the land of Gilead.
The narrator shows how women did not like each other due to their separation of labor. She says that Marthas, wives and Econowives have a negative perception of Handmaids and always see them as sluttish. In addition, she says that Econowives dislike their liberty from work. In the novel, it is clear that there is no group able to have compassion with the other. This kind of situation makes the women of the Gilead society look naïve and it has clearly understood that they think that they are the ones to blame for the past. The narrator also mourns when she talks about the misunderstandings. Some women are considered ‘Unwomen’ due to some natural calamities.
It is noted that women who are windows, lesbians and political dissident are sent to the colonies. This includes the Handmaids who fail to give birth to a child after three to two year assignments. Babies that are born with physical defects are known to be shredders or ‘Unbabies’ and are quickly made to disappear. This brings the great fear to the Handmaid because they do not know if they are carrying an ‘Unbaby’ until birth time. In the Republic of Gilead, we find that commanders are also entitled to prostitutes called Jezebels as entertainers. These are women who are either lesbians and beautiful or women who are educated and unable to live like Handmaids. These women have some advantages according to the males in that society. They can dress into sexualized uniforms like playboy bunny. They are also allowed to wear make up, drink alcohol and socialize with men.
Decisively, in the Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood shows how male view women as prostitutes while in the real sense they create some primitive lifestyle to be the law of Gilead. The novel also tries to fight for the rights of women. This is done by a clear indication of how men treat women when they are in power. It leads to a conclusion of the importance of education when it comes to both sexes. The novel regards men as humans who desire sex constantly and will do anything to obtain it as long as they are in power. Men are also portrayed as opportunists because the exercise their power only to have what they feel is best for them. This is shown by their choice of giving exemptions to women who perform what they want like in the case of the Jezebel. There should be liberation for women among societies to prevent slavery caused by empowered men.