Individualism In The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

2034 Words 9 Pages
The people of North Korea live only to serve their leader. There is no question of willingness to serve or thoughts of challenging authority, only the thought of how to best serve their leader persists. This is an idea that is instilled into them from birth. But what if it was not? What if they grew up with the principles of individualism, would they so willingly give it up to serve society? In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, one bears witness to the establishment of a new totalitarian society where plummeting birth rates cause women to be forced into sexual servitude. The protagonist, Offred, is one of the women who lived in the society before the regime and is now being forced into sexual servitude. Taking the role of a handmaid …show more content…
All individuals in Gilead are oppressed to a certain extent. Even the commanders who are the highest ranking members of Gileadean society are being constantly watched by the Eyes: the Republic of Gilead’s secret police force responsible for maintaining law and order. Under the continuous gaze of the eyes one has to keep up an appearance of obedience, as anyone around them could be an eye; the fear of being caught breaking the law by the eyes creates pressure over the people of Gilead, this pressure is experienced by Offred first hand. Her first encounter with Nick exemplifies the pressure exerted by the eyes. When Nick first looks at her various thoughts appear, such as that he is being friendly, or testing her, but regardless she cannot do anything about it as the overbearing pressure exerted by the eyes makes her obedient to the law. One of her thoughts is “Perhaps [Nick] is an eye” (Atwood 18), this thought displays Offred’s dubious mindset in which she thinks that anyone could be an eye. Offred's dubious mindset could only be developed under the constant pressure of the eyes in which one is made to feel fearful. The fear of being caught doing something unlawful by the eyes and the possibility of anyone around them being an eye creates …show more content…
“When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting.” (308) the scarcity of power for individuals in Gilead is why people typically pursue any power they can get. Offred pursues power throughout the novel as well she just not to a large extent such as other characters, rather she typically pursues power through little actions.. Offred initially thinks to herself that through stealing something and looking at it occasionally she would have a sense of power. But she soon realizes that “such a feeling would be an illusion, and too risky” (81). Although she realizes that the feeling of power is an illusion and that she does not wield true power throughout the novel she still consistently pursues it. Even though she realizes that the power she pursues is not real she does this to preserve her individuality. Through setting a goal for herself and pursuing it she is able to momentarily get away from the oppressed, monotonous life of a handmaid, only when she pursues something for herself is she an individual instead of just a handmaid. The “power” Offred pursues is not true power; true power is wielded by the higher ups in Gilead such as the Commanders. Offred is aware of this fact, she realizes “There’s no doubt about who holds the real power” (136). Because of these two powers being significantly different Offred has to redefine power

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