the handmaids tale

The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York:
Anchor Books, 1986.
One major theme in The Handmaid’s Tale is government control of
reproduction. The birthrate in Gilead was dramatically decreasing and the
government took extreme measures to control reproduction and women to
“unsure the future.” All the rights women previously had were taken away;
they suddenly couldn’t have jobs, hold property, read, or vote. The women
who are still fertile like Offred, the main character, are expected to have
babies and that’s it. They are looked on as just a womb on legs, not a real
person. “, there are to be no toeholds for love. We are two-legged wombs,
that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.” (136.) The handmaid’s have
no power over anything, and they only had limited power over themselves.
If they ran away they will just be caught
and punished, it would be hard to miss
there big red dresses and white wings
Many handmaids’ would try and
commit suicide in order to have some
final sense of decision and power.
Suicide is always in the back of Offred’s
mind. “I know why there is no glass, in
front of the watercolor pictures of blue
irises, and why the window opens only
partly and why the glass in it is
shatterproof. It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far.
It’s those other escapes, the one you can open in yourself, given a cutting
edge.” (8.)
Each handmaid is assigned to a certain house and given new names.
The houses they go to are the ones who are high up in government and the
ones with unfertile wives. The handmaids then are to have sex with the
husband and hope to get pregnant. If you’re lucky enough to get pregnant,
once you have the baby it is theirs. The handmaids are taught to have
sympathy for the wives, since they have to have sex with their husbands.
“she’d like me pregnant though, over and done with and out of the way, no
more humiliating sweaty tangles, no more flesh triangles under her starry
canopy of silver flowers.” (204.)
We see the thoughts of Offred and also here about her past life, before
the government was in so much control. There
are many rules for the handmaids, they are
always being watched. They are around to
makes children and that is all, if it takes to long
for them to become pregnant then there is no
use for them, no need. “I say. It’s true, and I
don’t ask why, because I know. Give me
children, or else I die. There’s more than one
meaning to it.” (61.)
The governments’ control of
reproduction in Gilead kind of destroys itself.
Offred learns from her Commander (the man of
the family she’s at) that he has had many affairs
with other handmaids, and how there is a secret club that many government
officials go to and women go to for sexual purposes. Offred also finds
herself in an affair which more or less leads to the ending. “I was her hope,
I’ve failed her. Now she will always be childless.” (295.) What the
government doesn’t get is that you can’t completely control reproduction or
personally really
enjoyed this book. I
like picturing what life
would be like if I was
in the same situation.
I like thinking how I would respond to certain situations in
the book also. I don’t really see any connections between
my life and the book I read. The government we have
today doesn’t control everything we do like in The
Handmaid’s Tale. The only thing that comes close to the
handmaids’ job would be surrogate mothers. Surrogate
mothers carry a baby with them and then will give the
baby up to someone else. It would be basically the same
thing as the handmaids, expect surrogate mothers are not
forced at all.
RECOMMENDATION: I thought this book was very good, I think
it is directed to those who are high school and up. If you enjoy
reading books about government control, or what would happen
if government controlled everything then you would like this
book. It is very similar to 1984 by George Orwell; if you liked
that book you would also like this one. It keeps your attention
and really gets you thinking about how we are living today. It’s
interesting to picture what life would be like if government was
in total control. Yes, I would recommend other books by her,
her book was easy to understand and will keep your attention.
Another of her books was also a Booker Prize Winner.