Review of the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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As a young woman who grew up in Vietnam, a small country, where gender roles of men and women were heavily applying from time through time. The Vietnamese females did not have the same opportunity to attend school like the males. When I was younger, I was thirst for the knowledge of understanding why the society constructed that way. I looked for opportunity to learn and grow as a female. Fortunately, I had a chance to move to the United States where I truly have many opportunities for better education. Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to read the book called the Handmaid’s Tale was written by Margaret Atwood, and I also watched its movie. Honestly, I could not finish the movie because it was very disturbing for me to watch sexual and violence scenes. Therefore, I chose the book over the movie.

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The Handmaid’s Tale is about a story of Offred, a handmaid who told her daily life story in Gilead, a not governmental state that was mainly ruled by religious belief. It was a replacement for the United States of America. Gilead was the place that had a very small amount of birth. Therefore, handmaids’ job was to carry babies for the upper-class family who had difficulty becoming pregnant. As a handmaid, Offred’s freedom was completely limited and restricted. She was assigned to serve for the Commander and his wife. Her name is Serena Joy. Offred’s job was to have sex with the Commander. However, they were not allowing to make any kind of sound while having sex, for Serena sat behind Offred, held her hands. The reason why Serena involved in the sexual activity because she did not want her husband and the handmaid to have any feelings for each other. Serena cried after they were done and commended Offred to leave the room. Serena began to cry. It showed the pain of a woman who could not bear children for her spouse. That part was powerfully showed the role of women which is to carry children and become a mother. In this book I have learned how society constructed the nature and roles of women and men, and the idea of power of a crucial foundation of old, presence or future society.

This novel has a wonderful and powerful impact throughout the society, especially the dystopia society. In the dystopia society, the women hold less power than the men just like today. Women could not reveal much of power and ownership through their sexuality, choices, and language. Their hardship was focused on the nonattendance of emotional essentials, alongside sexual stress, pressure, and anxiety. The author, Atwood generated these obstacles and struggles through the distinguishing of the women. Moreover, my favorite part in this novel was the use of language as a powerful tool. The language was the way the narrator used to form and indicated how she could gain control over time. She used her own perception through the way she used English. For example, she described guardian “His skin is pale and looks unwholesomely tender, like the skin under a scab. Nevertheless, I think of placing my hand on it, this exposed face. He is the one who turns away”. Language is powerful, and through language anyone can create and fantasize their own world.

In the way I see men and women today, I noticed similarities comparing to the time setting in the novel. Women still have less opportunities than men in many aspects of life. I had seen that in my own life. I thought it would be significantly different when I moved to the US. Somehow the roles of men and women do not change. Men make more wages than women. Men often view as the providers of the families. Women view as housewives, and they are less than men. However, in the modern day, men and women have more freedom than ever. For example, women can wear anything they feel comfortable in without any dress code versus in the novel, women must wore skirt “ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts” with “sleeves that are full”. Even their nightgowns were also “long-sleeved even in summer”. They believed that wearing clothes that cover up their body would help them protect themselves from temptations and bad attractions from the opposite gender. In addition, sex before marriage was extremely prohibited. “They have no outlets now except themselves, and that’s a sacrilege” or pornographic means. “There are no more magazines, no more films, no more substitutes. They also could not express themselves through any form of masturbation. However, in the modern society, sex before marriage has become the norm.

In my observation, people nowadays care more about losing their phone more than their virginity. Through sex, men believe they can show their masculinity, and women must be submissive. In my view, I would like the society has the mixture of today’s society and the dystopian America of The Handmaid’s Tale because I like how reserved they were and how freedom we have today. According to my observation and personal learning, those couples that choose not to have sex until marriage develops good communication in dating. When they practice chastity, their communication is often better because they are not just focused on physical pleasure. They focus on the joy of sharing their opinions, perspective, and experiences; therefore, their conversations are most likely deeper. Furthermore, it promotes generosity instead of selfishness. I believe that when they engage in sexual intimacy usually ask for more physical satisfaction rather than emotional connection. I believe that it is more important to have a better connection in feelings than physical. Nonetheless, handmaids were required to attend in the Ceremony which was unfair event because they did not have any better options beside death. Offred stated, “nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for”. She made it seemed like something she was not forced to do. She wanted to survive. Moreover, she recalled how aunt Lydia told her that where she would end up ‘is not a prison but a privilege’, and the fact that aunt Lydia felt the desire to tell her this really showed the Commander’s house was a place of strict control. The women who resided in there were not allowed to interact; however, they were brilliant. They learned to read their lips at night. They were under control and observation of Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Sara, who ‘had electric cattle prods slung on thongs from their leather belts’, they kept control through fear and violence. The handmaids did not have any privacy such as the door to Offred’s room in her Commander’s house did not even shut properly.

Additionally, the aunts controlled the women when they were sleeping by not shutting off the lights completely so that they could always watch them. Their freedom was very limited. Their responsibility oversaw preparing women to do their jobs. However, the male guards and angels still had more authority than the aunts. Even though the guard had higher authority, they were ‘supposed to show respect’ to the handmaids despite their class in society. It strongly showed a hierarchy within the males. The people who seem to have the highest power were the commanders, and it shown through ‘double obscurity’.

The impression of continual insanity of all citizens was clearly throughout the opening chapters of the text, and it was in a passive way of the state keeping total control. When Nick, the chauffeur, stared at her, it led her to assume that ‘perhaps he is an Eye’. This showed just how strict the control of this new style country was as a small action caused so much stress.

The handmaids also had to shopping in pairs; they understood they were in control- ‘she is my spy, as I am hers’, and this made sure that they were obedience to propriety. Also, the color of their uniform was representing the power and control of the state to its citizens. Furthermore, throughout this novel I learned that does not matter what time you are in, we always have to deal with gender roles in the society in one way or another. Even though we are more fortunate to live in the modern day where we have the freedom that we need but freedom is not guaranteed. We all get restful with our freedoms, and we often think that we never lose them. However, in the novel Offred had shown us that our freedoms could be taken away in a split second, in the change of governmental power. Also, in an unjust society, no one wins. For example, handmaids were suffering. They were the victims. Therefore, in my option at the end, no one was won.

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