The Importance Of Desire In The Handmaid's Tale

1521 Words 7 Pages
George Bernard Shaw once said “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart 's desire. The other is to gain it” (Man and Superman). Within Margaret Atwood’s (1985) dystopian fiction The Handmaid’s Tale, desire is shown to be a omnipresent aspect in the theocratic military dictatorship of Gilead. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, desire can be defined as “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen” (388). Within this novel, desire is shown to be a sense of longing for past elements of society that the characters have lost. Although authority is successfully constructed through several methods of indoctrination and dehumanization, this type of hierarchal social structure is undermined …show more content…
Right from the opening pages of the novel, it is shown that women have experienced a loss of sexual power and thus, desire sexual arousal further. For instance, Offred has lost her previous sexual partner due to the dictatorial philosophies of Gilead and thus, yearns for a sexual relationship unlike the cold and unemotional Ceremony. Unlike how the she feels for the Commander, Offred expresses her feelings for the mysterious Guardian, Nick by describing “I smell the smoke on him, in the warm air of the room, all over. I’d like to take off my clothes, bathe in it, rub it over my skin” (Atwood 301). This demonstrates Gilead’s failure to dehumanize and completely indoctrinate all of its citizens. Within the theocracy, the Handmaids are trained to only think of themselves as a reproductive object, however, Offred manages to defy this ideology by embracing her desire for sexual attention. Thus, no matter how much a person may be indoctrinated, humans will biologically always feel some sort of desire for sensual affection. Moreover, it is not only the Handmaids of the abstinent society who express feelings of desire, but also men of different levels of the state. One such character is Nick, who as a Guardian, should remain focused on his job …show more content…
Throughout the novel, Atwood shows how Offred desperately desires the knowledge that she is being denied by the Gilead regime. When asked what she requests, Offred responds “Whatever there is to know […] what’s going on” (217). This highlight just how much Offred desires to be intellectually stimulated and have a clever conversation after being indoctrinated into the world of Gilead. She feels it important enough to tell the Commander this despite the risk of being disciplined. Throughout history, humans have always strived to learn and obtain new knowledge and Offred illustrates this exact ideology. Right from the early pages of the novel, it is acknowledged that a desire to pursue and obtain knowledge is an insuppressible trait linked with humanity. Not only does Offred wish to know new information about Gilead, she also wishes to escape, and thus, be able to interact with others in an intellectual manner. Atwood describes Offred’s objectives: “I intend to get out of here” (155). Offred has a desire to escape in order to be able to be acknowledged as a human being, with intelligent ideas. When given access to information from the Commander, this only intensifies her desire to escape. Offred’s situation demonstrates how it is human nature to have a desire to escape and further themselves intellectually, while being controlled. Furthermore, Ofglen, another Handmaid, expresses

Related Documents