Identity In Handmaid's Tale

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Oppressive circumstances can lead to a comforting form of ignorance. The once United States of America has now turned into a nation known as the Republic of Gilead. The falling reproductive birth rates and chaos of the previous nation has lead to an implication of certain restrictions placed on women. The few women that are able to reproduce, known as handmaids, are assigned to couples in order to bare them children. In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel Handmaid’s Tale, the main character Offred lives under oppressive conditions that force her to outwardly conform, but she still attempts to maintain her identity.
As a part of the handmaids in this society, Offred must completely conform to the rules and regulations put into place by the government.
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Offred witnesses the dissolution of the United States into the theocracy that it is now, and she attempts to reconcile the warning signs with reality: “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edge of the print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” After the rise of the Gilead, Offred experiences flashbacks of the life she once lived “before.” She constantly reflects back on times with her family and thinks, “and we didn’t even know we were happy then.” She now realizes that they took basic freedoms and joys for granted; these tender remembrances of moments spent with her family are momentary reliefs from the brutality of her new life. She catches glimpses of her past through her university friends, her husband, and her freedom. Under her restrictive living conditions, Offred is kept alive by her inner life; reality and history become a symbiotic illusion in her mind. Offred’s sense of loss and boredom is what pervades the book. Along with the bereft of her job and the right to read or write, she has no distractions from own thoughts. Offred endlessly analyzes her own thoughts, actions, and feelings. She believes that people will do anything than to “admit that their lives have no meaning.” Offred constantly reaffirms her identity in order to maintain a sense …show more content…
Edna is forced to conform on the outside, but on the inside she is just beginning to discover herself. She does not want to be limited to the restrictive societal standards that are held for women; she craves a life without commitment or obligations. The contradictory forces that Edna feels is described: “Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.” Edna, like Offred, outwardly submits to conforming to the world around her. Despite this external submission, Edna is constantly having internal desires that are tearing her apart. She selfishly abandons her husband, her kids, and her former life in order to seek a life that she will derive true happiness. Despite Edna and Offred’s similar beliefs, they have different fates. While Offred is a more passive and submissive character, Edna is radical and active. Both of them have the desire to go through with these rebellious actions, but Edna is the one that truly attempts to follow through with her scandalous

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