The Struggle of Women in "The Handmaid's Tale"

Essay by sarah359 January 2006

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This is a futuristic novel that takes place in the northern part of the USA sometime in the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the oppressive and totalitarian Republic of Gilead. The regime demands high moral retribution and a virtuous lifestyle. The Bible is the guiding principle. As a result of the sexual freedom, free abortion and high increase of venereal diseases at the end of the twentieth century, many women, (and men also, but that is forbidden to say), are sterile. The women who are still fertile are recruited as Handmaids, and their only mission in life is to give birth to the offspring of their Commander, whose wife is infertile.

The main character in the book is Offred, one of these unfortunate servants whose only right to exist depends on her ovaries' productivity. She lives with the Commander and his wife in a highly supervised centre.

Unlike men, women have been facing unique problems for centuries, and often women experience harassment and discrimination.

In today's society, females are trying to combat their tribulations through lawsuits and protest rallies. Literature often deals with people being unable to articulate their problems. Often, unforeseen circumstances force people to conceal their true emotions. In "The Handmaid's Tale", the main female characters find ways to escape their situations rather than deal with them.

Offred from "The Handmaid's Tale" uses different tactics to cope with her situation. She is trapped within a distopian society comprised of a community riddled by despair. Though she is not physically tortured, the overwhelming and ridiculously powerful government mentally enslaves her. Offred lives in a horrific society, which prevents her from being freed. Essentially, the government enslaves her because she is a female and she is fertile. Offred memories about the way life used to be with her...