Oppression In The Handmaids Tale

Superior Essays
To what extent does Atwood portray women as being responsible for their own oppression in the Handmaid’s Tale? Explore this with reference to use of language and structure.
Atwood presents the women in Gilead as being responsible for their own oppression. At the time of the novel’s creation, the conservative governments lead by Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher were threatening to return to a patriarchal society with the nuclear family at its core. Atwood wanted to make it clear that women could not afford to be passive in the changing context of the early eighties.
With the characterisation of the Aunts, Atwood warns women that nothing will change if we are self-centred. Instead of working for personal power, they should work for the common
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' This implies that this was not a usual occurrence and in turn shows that Atwood intended it to be ironic. In the original memory of Aunt Lydia 's message, 'girls ' is separated from the rest of the sentence between two commas, further highlighting its importance. This term for the group could also be viewed as condescending or demeaning; in fact, Aunt Lydia and others make a conscious effort to separate themselves from the Handmaids. Like the narrator, the reader is likely to question the use of this word; it implies that the Aunts see Handmaids as being beneath them, thus reinforcing the hierarchy that Gilead relies on. In this case, Atwood is critical of the Aunts for not using their position to the advantage of all women, therefore women’s inability to work together has been their …show more content…
In fact, Offred has become so immune to the testifying that Janine’s horrific experiences are explained in just one sentence, glossing over something that was clearly controversial. This is completely different to Atwood’s style of narrative thus far; up until this point, a complex web of gossip and social statuses has been constructed to help the reader understand the ways of Gilead. Atwood gives the reader a reason to almost be disappointed in the narrator; the conditioning of Gilead has affected her so much that she feels no empathy or remorse for Janine. The Feminist ideal is that women would pull together for a greater good, not mock or turn against each other at the first opportunity.
The position of this event with in the chapter is also significant – Atwood intentionally placed the testifying in between two scenes involving Moira. Moira, who has been seen to be a rebellious figure in throughout the novel, is a complete juxtaposition to the Handmaids that have conformed to Gilead’s ideals without questioning them. When Offred is with her old friend, the reader sees that she is capable of being rebellious (‘God, I need a cigarette, says Moira. Me too, I say.’). Her involvement in the chanting is even more discouraging as a

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