The Handmaids Tale critical analysis

The Handmaids tale, by Margret Atwood, is an incredibly popular book due to the influence it has created on its readers. It talks about the themes of sexual oppression, and such stereotypes, this coupled with bigotry and tension throughout the novel, in the form of abuse on women. The book includes such prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority towards the female gender, and female character Ofglen showcases this theme throughout the novel. This makes the readers upset, as the theme of sexual oppression targets thousands of readers worldwide and due to the systematic oppression of today’s society, more people can relate to such ideas presented in the novel.

Sexual Oppression prevails throughout the novel due to the current events of the time and is used to spread awareness of women’s rights. Gilead is a society based on rank, where the men have power over the women of that time. After the event of the Gileadean revolutionaries, all of the women’s bank accounts are drained, and they are transformed into handmaids, econowives, Martha’s, and unwomen. Offred, in this novel, showcases the life of a handmaid, and the oppression that these women face throughout their lives under the command of the Commanders of the Faithful. This shows reference to the real world today, in Saudi Arabia, women are totally restricted from most rights which are expected in New Zealand. The local women of this fundamentalist Islamic state are unable to vote for political rights and are unable to make personal decisions, without the permission of their male counterparts. When we have a personal reference or knowledge of such cruelty on these women in the 21st century, the reader will be more affected by the ideology and themes included in this novel, further allowing you to relate to such characters as Offred.

The most influential characters in the novel engage in some form of uprising. Ofglen is an extremely influential character towards the development of the story and constantly faces against Gilead’s laws. Comprehensively, it is due to the oppression of women in the novel. Ofglen’s rebellion is much less self-centered, as to of the commander, and his wife, where Ofglen is involved in multiple community-organized developments. The commander, however creating some of Gilead, still uprises, and disobeys multiple of his own laws. Through illegal association with Offred, he breaks such consorting laws. In the 21st century today, such laws of consorting are associated with criminal association and relate to organized crime within the court. In the real world, the Soviet Union have restricted their communities to very little human rights. Human rights are strictly limited to very little permits, where the Union believes that the government should direct the advantages to multiple persons within the state. Readers of this novel have found such themes to be astute, and frightening. The idea of social prevention of human rights has affected thousands of readers worldwide, leading to such success of this novel. Within this novel, all of the women in Gilead’s society has lost all of their human rights. The idea of this has affected thousands of women and human rights activists, and you will be drawn into such ideas.

Another idea in the novel is that majority of the population of Gilead is infertile, meaning the chance of children is much lesser. According to the novel, only the Handmaids are fertile, leading them to be revered by society, yet at the same time, these women are mistreated. This brings up the idea that the continuing of society depends on the handmaids in the novel, yet these women are abused by the men within the society, and they are treated as slaves. In the real world today, world fertility is going down, as seen in Japan, where the replacement rates have shrunken to 0.9 from 1.3. The Japanese society has a declining population, and this novel targets this theme through the infertility of majority of the women in Gilead, and through the idea that only handmaids are fertile. This links to the film V for Vendetta, where the fascist government has taken control over its society, and these members of power are completely tyrannical over their citizens. The government in The Handmaids tale contrast to the government in V for Vendetta, where certain rules have defined how society must live in this dystopian world.

In conclusion, the novel The Handmaids tale, by Margret Atwood includes multiple themes which draw you in and urge to read onwards. The themes involved creates such an influence on the reader through sexual oppression, stereotypes, uprising, and infertility, these all displayed through female characters in the novel. These ideas will draw you in, allowing you to relate to any one of the multiple main characters, each of which exposes the relation of these themes in not only their society but the society that we live in today. This dystopian literature has captured the minds of millions of readers worldwide, leading to this novel becoming the most read book in 2017, this according to Amazon. Such themes are displayed by main character Offglen, who uncovers the ideology around the cruel and biased abuse that the women in this society undertake, Offglen displaying the life of the handmaid. Throughout the novel, you discover how crucial the handmaids are for the future of society and begin to feel distraught on how these women are treated, endorsing you to want to read on.

By Michael Meek

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. A good start, you still have a long way to go!

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  2. When readers have a personal reference or knowledge of such cruelty on these women in the 21st century, they will be more affected by the ideology and themes included in this novel, further allowing them to relate to such characters as Offred. – so do you think this means the novel would be a more suitable read for a certain type of person???

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  3. Sexual Oppression prevails throughout the novel due to the current events of the time and is used to spread awareness of women’s rights. – can you go in to more detail here? What events? Did the events of the time influence Atwood to write this novel?

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About Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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