The Bible and Western Culture Essay

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The Bible and Western Culture

1. The Bible as Political/Philosophical Statement

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

The dystopia depicted in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a patriarchal society that prides itself in the protection of women. The marked hierarchy of power and status revealed here cannot be denied and the society’s attitude towards women is as anti-feminist as many could ever imagine. The society in which those without power are not only weak but ignorant is reminiscent of the early Middle Ages when only the highly educated and powerful were able to read, and even fewer were able to read the Bible. The society described by Offred has almost a puritanical flavour to it. The Gileadean religious
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There is to be no question as to whether or not women and men are meant to reproduce. From the stories read, this would appear to be the only message of the Bible. All the passages selected by the Commanders support reproduction, as do rituals and customs in Gilead. The creation story of Genesis is also used to support gender divisions in The Handmaid’s Tale. Select passages from the Bible are used to enforce the idea of the Gileadean fathers that women should be subservient. The idea is one that controls much of society, although women are well protected, but mostly for their reproductive value. The first sight of this that Offred has occurs before coup that establishes power as it is in Gilead. When her job and money are taken from her and her bank account handed over to Luke she says, “We are not each other’s anymore. Instead I am his.” This practice is very much a reminder of the consequences of the fall. “Unto the woman he said… and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16) This division of genders is also seen during the mass marriage ceremony conducted by Commanders. The Bible is used selectively, to the point where it is exclusionary. The Commander conducting the service says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection… But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in

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