"How does Margaret Atwood portray the role of women in the Republic of Gilead?"

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"How does Margaret Atwood portray the role of women in the Republic of Gilead?"

The Republic of Gilead allows Offred only one function: to reproduce. She has a choice, this or death. Through 'The Handmaid's Tale' Margaret Atwood conjures up a terrifying image of a society that has completely reversed all its ideologies and principles. Setting it in America, the country often seen as the pinnacle of all things 'Western' and modern, shocks us due to the complete contrast. Women are completely suppressed by men and their position in society is completely determined by the status of their husband and their fertility.

Women are strictly categorised in Gilead, they are Handmaids, Wives, Marthas, Econowives or Aunts. Offred is a Handmaid. She showed her fertility in pre-Gilead society by having a daughter, but she is not allowed to be a Wife as she was once divorced. Wives are those married to Commanders, men in senior positions in society.

Although they have quite elevated status, they have no power. Infertile wives, the majority, are allocated Handmaids, who have sex with their husbands in order to give them a child. Marthas are servants of Commanders and Econowives are those married to common men. Aunts are older, infertile women, dedicated to the regime, who train Handmaids. By referring to women as their category and not their individual name, Atwood impersonalises these women, making them representative of their whole category within Gilead. This gives the book extra depth, making it more than just a fictional autobiography, but a study of women as a whole in certain situations.

Before Gilead was created, Offred, the heroine of the story, was a normal woman. She worked in a library, was married for the second time to a man, Luke, who she was very much in love with, and...