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The Handmaid's Tale - Gilead and 20th Century ideas and events

Uploaded by simonfanclub on Jan 16, 2002

The Novel Explores an Imaginary World. To what extent is Gilead built on familiar ideas and events from our own 20th Century Society.



Throughout the novel, Offred brings the readers attention to ‘the time before’. This generally happens in the ‘Night’ passages. It is in these passages where the reader is given a true insight into what Offred is really thinking. This is no doubt why the reader is only here given true insight to ‘the time before’, which was of course, the society we live in today. The role of satire itself is to bring to the attention of the reader, the problems of the society in which they live. Atwood’s stance here, is to create a distopian society, which has been vastly exaggerated for the purposes of the novel. It could be argued that, just as in Nineteen Eighty-Four, this is indeed a future satire, in which Atwood is warning of the future of the society in which she lives.

The birth of Gileadean Society is a recent occurrence in the novel. We know this from Offred’s accounts of the break up of her relationship with Luke and their attempts to leave the country. We can therefore assume that the birth of Gilead is within about ten years of Offred’s accounts. Because of this, there are still signs of the ‘time before’ present, for example the magazines and scrabble in the Commander’s office. Another example of this, is the opening of the novel when we are introduced to the characters in a novel. ‘We slept in what had once been the gymnasium’. This shows that there are still significance reminders of the ‘time before’ . Notice the use of Atwood’s language here. She says ‘the gymnasium’, rather than ‘a gymnasium’ this suggests that Offred remembers the gymnasium and it is not a random place of no significance to her.

Gileadean Society is, ultimately based around a feminist idea, which has gone wrong. The women are put on a pedestal so high, and are so coveted and respected within certain circles that they are even more oppressed than they were in ‘the time before’ if you could be so bold as to argue that women were oppressed in the ‘time before’. However, this feminist culture has been distorted, making the eventual outcome totally opposite to what was campaigned for.

Distortion of what happened in the ‘time before’ is an ongoing theme throughout...

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Uploaded by:   simonfanclub

Date:   01/16/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   5 pages (1,026 words)

Views:   1429

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