'The Handmaid's Tale' - Margaret Atwood
'Discuss Atwood's presentation of Gilead in the first seventy-six pages of the novel'
The anti-utopian novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale' tells the futuristic story of Offred, a Handmaid of the oppressive Gileadean regime, a society governed by an elite and characterised by distorted language that refers to Biblical writings. The novel is set around the near-future repressive society of Gilead at war, blocking any form of external influence and using propaganda to further its ideas as a society, ruling by force and restricting individual freedom. The Gileadean regime regards the Church to be of the highest authority, Puritanism being the religious influence. Repressed within this patriarchal society, Offred's only duty as a Handmaid is to reproduce for the Republic of Gilead.
The dystopian Republic of Gilead is introduced methodically in the opening chapters of the book. Offred provides the reader with small insights to Gilead's establishment and teachings, through the techniques of flashbacks and references to daily life under the regime.
The reader's initial impressions of the society, within which Offred is living, are intentionally built up progressively as Atwood provides limited material about Gilead. Atwood deliberately allows the Gileadean regime to be introduced slowly but effectively, provoking the reader to grasp for any information about the society by which Offred is held captive. It is through flashbacks and daily rituals within the Commander's household that the reader learns not only of how Gilead came about but about its violent ethos, limitations and authority.
From what Atwood has indicated, the establishment of Gilead was a gradual one, its approach insidious. The founding of the new republic was slow to begin with, influencing only those who chose to watch the programmes it aired featuring the spiritual leadership of Serena Joy and fellow preachers. As the social...