Feminism criticism is concerned with woman’s right and how woman are viewed in writing. “This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal. ” (Purdue OWL) In 1848, the first official attempt for woman’s rights was at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York, and since that time, the woman’s rights movement has steadily gained motion. Anti-feminists viewed woman as domesticated and in charge of the households, however, women have continued to fight against these stereotypical views.
Margaret Tattoo’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a criticism of woman’s oppression and an exaggerated view of woman’s social roles. Since the inception of the women’s movement, and then the boost of feminist activity in the years following WI, women have been advocating for a greater degree of autonomy and personal freedom. Readers can analyze Offered, the works protagonist, as being the core symbol of woman’s demoralized roles. Before Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, the woman’s rights movement was already in action. “Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale during the height of the
Reagan era in the United States-the presidency of Ronald Reagan, from 1981 to 1989- during which political and religious conservatism was on the rise. ” (Novel guide) Contraceptives and abortions were becoming legal as changes were made. In 1969, as woman’s voices were being heard, “California becomes the first state to adopt a “no fault” divorce law, which allows couples to divorce by mutual consent. By 1985 every state has adopted a similar law. ” Women were on the rise. The events happening around Tattoo’s life during this time period were reflected in her work.
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a fictional United States where a new form of government, Gilead, takes over. “In Gilead, all power is in the hands of the male elite who call themselves Commanders. They enforce their rule through paramilitary groups known as Guardians of the Faith, and through spies and secret police known as Eyes. ” (Novel guide) In the start of the new government, women are striped of their jobs and property, reading privileges. “Even the signs identifying the stores are in pictures, not words. ” (Novel guide) The narrator is Offered, a handmaid with knowledge of the former time and a woman against the new government.
As she tells her present story, she has two types of flashbacks; one from her childhood and one from her time Just before with her husband and child. Throughout the novel, readers slowly learn about Offered and her new society. In this government, women are either handmaids, Martha, wives, conceives, aunts or worst of all, they can be labeled as unknown. Each position has specific roles that are very stereotypical of woman. Martha are cooks, aunts teach the handmaids, handmaids reproduce and the wives/ conceives run the household. None of these roles include making money or being independent.
The roles of woman in this society have been restricted to stereotypical views where woman are only cooks, teachers and in charge of the chores in the house. The handmaids are identified by the man who is in charge of them: their commander. An ‘unknown’ is either not fertile or a criminal. Since Gillie’s main purpose is to reproduce offspring, unknown are outcasts. They are the girls who cannot physically reproduce or are rebellious against Gillie’s beliefs. Doctors who performed abortions before Gilead were arrested and hung. Gays were also looked down upon and known as “gender treachery’.
Since birthrate is low, handmaids are given to Commanders who have wives that cannot reproduce. It is the Handmaids’ Job to reproduce with the Commander in order to bear a child. This may be a way to biblically embarrass the unfortunate wives who cannot reproduce. Without being able to create another life would mean that the wife is less of a woman. This is another way Gilead strips woman of their identities. “There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. ” (61) If a commander and Handmaid cannot reproduce, it is always blamed on the handmaid.
As Offered tells her present day story, she also has flashbacks. As seen in many of Fried’s flashbacks, her mother was a feminist activist. She was strongly for woman’s rights and Offered describes memories she has of her mother such as burning magazines, like Playboy, that display woman in a provocative way. Dissimilar, Serene Joy, the Commander’s wife, is an anti-feminist. Before Gilead, she would make speeches about how a woman’s place is in the household. “She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless.
She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be now that she has been taken at her word. (Pig 46) Also, Offered remembers her lesbian best friend, Maria, who is rebellious and independent. She tries to escape her destiny as a Handmaid many times but was always captured. In the new society of Gilead, the powerful government has pushed down even the most independent people such as Maria. When Offered talks of the time before this, she talks about woman who used to wear tiny bathing suits and lather their bodies up in oil to sit out in the sun.
A piece of the past is seen when Offered is on her daily walk and sees Chinese tourists who ere fascinated by Offered. The tourists wore mini shirts and teetered on their high heels while starring at the handmaids in amazement. At the Red Center, as a handmaid told her rape story, the Aunts of the center told her that it was all her fault. She tempted the man to rape her and she could have stopped it. In the eyes of this new society, it was always the woman’s fault. The men were only tempted to do badly. Margaret Tattoo’s The Handmaid’s Tail degrades feminists’ views on woman’s rights.
The novel gives alternatives of America if the woman’s rights movement did not succeed. The effects of the war in the story turned the United States into a society identical to an Islamic nation. Therefore, readers were able to view this story through a feminist point of view and analyze Offered in ways that would make feminist activists upset and outraged. Gilead is a society run by females but dominated by males. Tattoo’s detail to authority and how the nation runs lets readers see what would become of the United States if woman were stripped of their privileges.