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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a story written by Margaret Atwood. It reveals life in Gilead’s dystopia, a totalitarian community in what was the US. Gilead was primarily ruled by a complex regime that treated women as state property, whereby it was faced with various environmental disasters that resulted in a plummeting birth rate. More importantly, the tale was not based on a true story as it only reflected science fiction. However, it was set in a dystopian future, particularly where the totalitarian regime overthrew the United States government and established the Gilead Republic. Margaret’s novel was inspired by political and religious history. In this case, the essay’s main objective is to analyze the author’s setting and how women’s rights have been portrayed in Gilead totalitarian rule.

Massachusetts was the center for the US first intolerant and religious society, specifically the 17th century Puritan New England. In this case, the choice of Massachusetts as a major setting in Atwood’s novel symbolized direct links between all Puritans and their major spiritual heirs in Gilead. The two groups dealt harshly, especially with sexual, religious, and political deviation. Nonetheless, Margaret spent most of her time as a researcher in Widener Library, bearing in mind that she studied at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts’ neighborhood. The novel was set in this location, considering that it was one of its significant liberal strongholds. It revealed her influence in excellent knowledge of the 17th century Puritans as some of her ancestors were creepy Puritan New Englanders during that period.

Religion seemed the central part of the Gileadean society, which defined all its life aspects at first. However, the entire Gilead structure was built around one objective, reproduction control. Offred states that before Gilead, she saw her body as a tool of her desires. She later saw her body like a cloud with a womb far more actual than herself as a Handmaid. Therefore, this revealed that even strong women came to see themselves the same way as the state. Besides, Gilead celebrated childbirth instead of Labor Day, commemorating workers’ rights (Atwood 257). Offred’s ordeal in Gilead revealed that female workers had no right to celebrate the holiday because the Gilead Republic admired them as mothers. This challenged the American ideal in the declaration of independence, which allowed all people to enjoy liberty.

In addition, Gender inequality was present in Gilead, which was never promoted in the declaration of independence. Gilead’s political ordeal stripped women of their right to hold property, read, and vote. Women cease to receive appropriate treatment as people with independent selves. Atwood presents women as potential mothers governed by the state (Atwood 248). Besides, women are oppressed in all possible ways, denying them the right to reproductive rights. They are dehumanized by being banned from writing and reading, depriving them of chances to record their histories. Women’s rights have been reduced to their womb, body, and following commands, as revealed by Offred, which should not be the case.

In conclusion, the novel engulfs readers in a totalitarian futuristic America. The novel’s setting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, enables the author to draw a significant parallel mainly between religious intolerance and misogyny during the 17th century. The setting is significant, bearing in mind that the author studied in that location, thereby having enough Puritan history. Nonetheless, how women receive treatment ironically portrays the declaration of independence. They are denied the right to read as well as the liberty to do what they want. In addition, women’s rights have been reduced to their bodies and wombs, and they even have no rights to celebrate workers’ labor day.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Penguin

Random House LLC, 1998. Print.


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