A Handmaid's Tale

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A Handmaid's Tale

A Handmaid's TaleMargaret Atwood

Offred is the main character. and narrotor of the novel. She is intelligent, perceptive, kind, and has a dark sense of humor. Offred is a very passive character and is definatly not a hero. She attempts to escape, but once it fails, she submits outwardly and becomes a handmaid. She allows Serena Joy to persuade her into having affairs with Nick (in hopes of seeing her daughter), and although she is friends with Ofglen, a memeber of the resistence, she never joins herself.

Why was this book banned?A Handmaid's tale was banned because of the many sexual refrences throughout the novel. The main character also chooses to swear quite often.

The setting is in a present time dystopian world in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our society has been taken over by a group of terriosits who are based on extremist religious beliefs. They've renamed the city as The Republic of Gilead.

Power is one of the most important themes in A Handmaid's Tale. Gilead is a theocratic dictatorship, which means all the power in socitry resides at the top. There is no possibility of appeal, no method of legally protecting oneself from the government, and no hope that an outside power will intervene. The only place that people are free is in their own heads. The commander holds power over Offred, as do most men in this society. She feels obligated to agree and meet with him in secret because of the intimidating way he makes her feel. Another theme throughout the novel is the use of women's bodies as a political intrusment. Gilead was formed in response to the crisis caused by decreased birthrates. The state handels the problem by taking complete control of women’s bodies through their political repression. Women cannot vote, hold property, jobs, read, or do anything else that might allow them to become independent.

The commander is an extremely imporatant character. He is a member of the Gilead and the husband of Serena Joy. He seems childish and a tad bit controlling to the people around him. The commander is selfish and risks Offred's life everytime they visit in secret, only to satisfy his need for compainionship. Although the commander may seem considerate and almost likable, the socitey he helped create and the hell he has created for women makes him a monster to the reader.

Serena Joy is the wife of the commander. Serena is rude and extremely superficial, she hates Offred and the fact that she is fornicating with her husband. Serena Joy is lonely and unhappy with the life that has been created for her. When she persuades Offred to have sex with Nick she shows the reader her true nature of being cruel; she doesn't really give Offred the oppertunity to say no. She wants Offred to get pregnant faster so that she is away from her husband sooner, and so that she can finally have a child of her own.

Plot Structure:The Setup - Offred is a handmaid for the commader (basically a sex slave). It's her third and final chance to get pregnant or she will be sent to the colonies (a concentration camp for women).The Oppertunity - Ofglen is Offred's walking partner and "friend". On one of their daily walks Ofglen tells Offred about the resistance called "Mayday". Offred doesn't jump on the chance of speaking about it choosing to rather be safe then sorry; and not really trusting Ofglen completly.The New Situation - The commander and Offred begin to have secret meetings. They play puzzle games and he allows her to read. She takes advantage of this new found "friendship" and asks for lotion, and information about what's happening outside the life she's been living. The Change of Plans - The commander takes Offred to a slezy hotel instead of their usual meetings in his office. They later go up to a motel room and copulateProgress - Serena Joy creates a plan for Nick and Offred to have sexual intercourse in the hopes that she will become preganant sooner. If Offred does become preganant they will pass the child off as the commanders. The Point of No Return - Offred begins to think that she may have fallen in love with Nick. She enjoys there nights together and sneaking around with him - although it's highly illegal. Complications and High Stakes - Offred’s evenings with the Commander; her shopping trips with Ofglen where they discuss Mayday; her visit to Jezebel’s with the commander, and continuing to see Nick for a late night affair.The Major Setback - Offred realizes she may be preganant with Nick's child, but she refuses to tell anyone.The Fianl Push - The Handmaid's surrond a man (at an exsecution ceremony) that was convicted of a supposed rape but was actually apart of the resistence. In fear of being found out Ofglen commits suicide; startling Offred.The Climax - After learning that Ofglen committed suicide to avoid arrest, Offred returns home and Serena confronts her about her trip to Jezebel’s with her husband.The Aftermath - The men in the black van come to Serena's house to arrest Offred. Yet, before they arrive Nick burts into Offred's room and tells her that they are the resistance not the government. The men come and escort Offred into the van. The novel ends with either Offred's arrest or escape.

Conflict: Person vs. Person: Most of the conflict , directly related to Offred, is internal, however she does experience some conflict with others. The main person vs. person conflict in the novel is between Offred and Serena .At first they do not like each other because of their respective positions in society and relationships with the Commander, however the conflict soon becomes much more personal. After discussing the possibility of using Nick to get Offred pregnant, Offred learns that Serena has known where her daughter is all along. This conflict is not truly addressed again until the end of the novel. Serena finally discovers that the relationship between Offred and the Commander is more than that of a handmaid and her Commander. Predictably, she is extremely angry and threatens Offred with some sort of undetermined punishment. Serena sends Offred to her room to wait for this punishment where she is soon rescued by Mayday. It may seem as though Offred won this conflict as she manages to escape the control that Serena seems to enjoy having over Offred. However, upon examining the conflict more carefully, it appears that it was actually Serena that won. She gets exactly what she wants when Offred leaves–Offred out of her and the Commander’s lives.Internal Conflict: Offred continues to experience inner turmoil until the very end of the novel. One source of turmoil for Offred is Nick. Offred is torn between her attraction to Nick and remaining faithful to Luke (her husband before the Gilead - assumed dead). In the end, she gives in to her attraction to Nick. Offred puts Nick ahead of all of her other desires and needs and those of others as well. By returning to her former complacent state, Offred is not only harming herself, but others as well as she is no longer willing to gather information on the Commander that could help Mayday. Ultimately, Offred’s complacency overpowers her rebelliousness. Even when she is faced with a horrible punishment, possibly even death. Offred is unable to do so much as save her own life. She is paralyzed by her own complacency.

Quote One - "I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window opens only partly and why the glass in it is shatter-proof. It isn't running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge." (Atwood 8)- Offred reminds us that there are different kinds of freedom. She's not just forbidden from jumping out of the window or running out the door – they've actually removed all possibility of suicide. This is exactly where the Power theme comes in. They've controlled every aspect of the handmaid's lives, made it almost impossible for them to act on own free will.Ouote Two: "It's not the husbands you have to watch out for, said Aunt Lydia, it's the Wives. You should always try to imagine what they must be feeling. Of course they will resent you. It is only natural. Try to feel for them." (Atwood 46)- I found this quote extremely interesting, it's another example of the power theme. Significantly, "Wives" is capitalized while "husbands" is not. Husbands have other jobs, but a Wife is a wife and a wife only. Marriage isn't about being in love anymore, it's about holding a status.


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