Themes of Repression and Warning in "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

Essay by emmachaseHigh School, 11th gradeA+, July 2007

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Margaret Atwood's novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" is a frightening look into anew society which represses women to a new subhuman status. This idea of the subjugation of women is reoccurring throughout the entire novel and as we find out later, is actually a warning in the form of a story. The message that this book sends about the repression of women is something that is emphasized continuously during Offred's story but is particularly exemplified in the Historical Notes. The Historical Notes are that extra oomph in the end to truly confirm the warning that the book is exposing and the historical notes do this in a number of different ways. The entire tale concentrates on repression, specifically the repression of women. The author sends a specific message about this repression throughout the novel. The message could also be portrayed as a warning. In particular, she seems to be showing us that this society could potentially be our society in the future.

She portrays this message is many way throughout Offred's story whether its through the way we see Offred suffer through every day life or the way that she expresses in the Historical Notes that in 2195, they still do not seem to have learned their lesson.

Although it is apparent that the idea of repression of women appears on every page, there are many moments in the novel that particularly exemplify the new status of women. The title system is one particularly interesting and convincing example of women being of subhuman status. In the new society that Offred lives in, called the Republic of Gilead, women are separated in a title system where they serve single purposes. There are four main titles that they use for women. Supposedly highest in the system are wives of the commanders...