The Handsmaid Tale

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Dystopic is defined in the Chamber's Dictionary as a place thought of as the opposite of "Utopia", i.e. where everything is as bad as possible. The movie "The Handmaid's Tale" description of a society is far from the perfect "Utopia". It foreshadows a very terrifying example of how women in today's society were or could have been treated almost a generation ago, if they did not fight for their rights.

The Handmaid's Tale takes place in the early twentieth century, somewhere in the United States. In this state, The Republic of Gilead, the rulers of this city believed that in order for society to multiply it had to be controlled. The morals of this society have been lost and in order to restore the morals strict laws, rules and principles were enforced. It is against the law to have any kind of magazines, newspapers or books, except the bible.

The bible was used as a way of living; it was their guiding principle. The men were able to read and write however if women were caught reading or writing they punished severely.

The men were commanders, guardians (servant to the commander), soldiers, spies or security workers. The women were given no high ranking position, they were either aunts (they trained the handmaids), wives of the commander, handmaids or Marthas (house maids). If the male was poor and the female was unable to bare children they were considered nobody, they didn't exist. These new laws depicted the poor of their rights and made the rich powerful. It is believed that "you are defined by the situation into which you are born" (Ostenson, 17). The lecture on the result of oppression can be compared to The Handmaid tale, in many ways. The lecture explains how oppression within a society can be identified, it also states that the dominant group clearly has the power and the subordinate group have been mistreated" (Ostenson, 17).

The only thing that mattered in this society was your function in society, who you were as an individual, served no purpose. Each class of people had to wear a certain color that distinguished them from each other. The rulers and the rich people (wives, commanders) were the dominant group, and the poor, fertile, and infertile women were the subordinate group, which were mistreated. If they were a fertile female, they were forced to become handmaid, a surrogate mother for the commander and his wife, however if they were infertile they were deported, killed and not considered a woman anymore. The government felt that they were worthless to society.

The most disturbing aspect of the movie was how the Handmaids were depicted of their identity. Offered the main character in this movie was a poor, loving wife and mother who was captured and turned into a handmaid. She was no longer an individual but an object, who had no right to independent thoughts or feelings like all the other handmaids. The fact that Offered is a fertile female, gives the government the right to enslave her. Her only right to exist in this society depended on her ability to bare a child.

Offered was devastated, "one of the most damaging effects of being a member of a subordinate group is self-hatred (Ostenson, 21). The lecture also mentions "it is not unusual for a subordinate at times to feel depressed to experience despair, and consider suicide (Ostenson, 21). However this is different in Offred's case, in the movie she did not show any signs of self-hatred. She was able to cope with this new life style by adapting many different tactics. Many of the tactics were forbidden in Gilead, such as communication with others, imagination, and emotional relationships.

Through her thoughts and relationships of the past, her perception of the present and her hope for the future Offred was able to overcome many things including freedom. In chapter 24 we learn that the reason that Offred was able to overcome many things was because she had no say of her life, and the tactics that she used helped her to cope with reality and the consequences of her position, which also helped her to accept what was really happening around her. " The longer we are in a subordinate role, the more they develop the characteristic coping strategies" (Collins, 368) this statement was seen by Offred in the Handmaid Tale. As the days went by Offred found many ways to overcome her fear and adjust to her situation.

It is generally acknowledged in society today that if a woman says no to sex and her partner does not stop, it is considered rape. In the movie Offered and all the other handmaids were forced to sleep with their commanders in order to conceive. These woman were raped, however in their society it was seen as another way of keeping woman in their place.

In chapter 18 of the lecture of psychology of women it states that in societies where rape is classified as rare, even the concept of rape as communicated through folk tales (for example, where a fictional person is punished by being raped) is effective in keeping women in their place and fearful" (Rozee, 1993). Despite these concerns, the handmaids were punished if they were unable to conceive, even though it was the commander's fault for being able to produce babies. According to Patricia Rozee, it is believed that a society like Gilead was a "just world theory" where people blamed their victims because of their beliefs that the world is just a place where bad things happen to bad people. She felt that it not only gave them a sense of control but it also made them feel safer.

You grow up believing one thing, and then all of a sudden you are forced to believe something else. This is something that Offered experiences. As an individual growing up before she was captured I believed that she experienced the 9 to 5 job, spending time with her family having fun loving and caring for her husband and child. However after she was capture, she was brainwashed into believing that her only purpose in life was to bare children. Although it seemed like she believed and accepted the fact that it was her role as women, they were many thing's that she did which made her different from what the ruler of Gilead expected of her.

The handmaid's Tale plays a major role in convincing society that the major role of women is to reproduce. The only thing that was expected of women in Gilead was to have children. If they were poor and incapable of having children they were deported and killed. In society today women did not always have the right to work, the right to an income of their own. They were considered to be housewives and their only duty was to stay home and take care of their family. In both society's it is easy to see that reproduction is the only role that females should play.

Codependence defined in the chamber's dictionary as a person who seek