The Handmaid's Tale - by Margaret Atwood Prompt: Compare how different characters in the novel adapt to life under the new regime. (full title below)

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We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it." Compare how different characters in the novel adapt to life under the new regime.

"The Handmaid's Tale" is a novel by Canadian poet, Margaret Atwood. This book illustrates a dystopian society where men are represented as powerful and self-sufficient, and women as servants. Men are defined by their ability in the 'military' (Guardians, Commanders and Angels), while women are named solely for the purpose their bodies can serve. Under this new government, citizens of the Republic of Gilead had to adapt to this new way of life.

The protagonist of this novel, Offred, is a handmaid. She is a uterine slave, her only purpose is to be impregnated by her commander and bear his children. Shorn of her name, her family, and her past, Offred is forced to adapt to her new life under this new rule.

Forbidden to read or write, and constantly spied on, the only free place Offred has is her own mind. She uses this tool to escape and ignore the troubles of her new life. Offred would often think of her past; memories of her husband, her daughter, her family and friends. Sometimes, she would even "script arguments with Luke, and our [Offred and Luke's] reconciliation after". These memories are the driving force for Offred to carry on, her hope for a reconciliation one day, and they make Offred's days bearable. Offred never gave up hope, she never thought of Luke being dead. She hoped her daughter was alive and was reassured when Serena Joy showed her a picture of her daughter. These restrained Offred from committing suicide when given the chance more than once. When Serena Joy confronts Offred about her affair with the Commander, Offred even thinks of things she could do to escape punishment.

Serena Joy is the wife of Offred's commander. She was, in the days before Gilead, a gospel singer on TV. Elderly and crippled by arthritis, Serena Joy is a bitter and hypocritical woman. Desperate for a child, she forced Offred to sleep with Nick, her husband's chauffeur. Yet, she was furious when she finds out about Offred's meetings with her husband. That is ironic because if Offred ever conceives a child with the Commander, the child would be, in a way, also Serena Joy's child. Unloved by her cheating husband, Serena Joy finds solace in looking caring for her garden and knitting scarves for the Angels. She mesmerizes herself in perfecting her skills. Her garden seems to be well looked-after. Her scarf patterns are elaborate compared to other Wives, it has "Fir trees march[ing] along the ends of her scarves or stiff humanoid figures…" and they "aren't scarves for grown men but for children". This further emphasizes her want for children.

Offred's Commander is one of the founding fathers of Gilead. He belongs to the ruling elite, but still clings and cherishes certain aspects of life before Gilead such as fashion magazines and Scrabble. As one of the creators of the new regime, the Commander is somewhat aware of the sufferings of the citizens, and feels partly responsible. To ease Offred's sufferings, he attempts to please her by inviting her to meetings in his room at night, by explaining the current situation to her, and finally, by taking her to Jezebels to entertain her. Though Offred feels grateful, his efforts are unsuccessful. The Commander has very simplistic views of women. "Why did they [women] buy so many different clothes, in the old days? To trick the men into thinking they were several different women. A new one each day." He appears to believe in what he says, or maybe he is just ignoring the truth.

The characters of this novel have found their own ways to cope with their new life, even though their basis of adaptation is by ignoring. They are not ignorant, they just chose to ignore reality.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:The Handmaid's Tale - Author: Margaret Atwood