Humans are sexual beings. When we are born, we are affected by a sexual life. According to psychology, since we are born, we start to explore our body. When we are three years old, during our anal stage of sexual development, we start to discover our body. This is the stage in which we start to feel independent. By being social, the most things we are concerned are related to our sexual life. All our thoughts are occupied in how to use our body to reach something. To take advantage of someone. This makes us fill free. Because we own our body.
And we can use it however we want to, whether it is to manipulate someone, or to kill it, in order to show that you own something, and that no regime, no one can make you feel totally possessed, because, at the end you will always own something: your body. Your sexuality. Your freedom. I believe that the author in the Handmaid’s tale, places a theory, in which women seem to be totally degraded, but are in fact the main power. Because as the most important thing in the regime is to procreate, women are the ones who give birth, so I believe that it is through their body, how they control the society.
And it is their sexuality their way to feel free, as they own their thoughts, and their feelings. Existentialists, state that human beings are able to define and determine their own life. You do this through your thoughts, and therefore through your actions. For example, by writing “faith” in the coushins, or witing “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”. People are accustumed to face problems. Sometimes these problems increment. What defines you is how you use your reazon to overcome these situations.
Whether it is to sit and wait for a revolution to come, and save you. Or start the revolution yourself. Of course, as Van Gogh would say “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”. Offred is a revolutionary, as she is an artist, and artists “Talk when there should be silence”, we can say this, when we see in Chapter one, where we are presented women names, in a place where there should be neither communication nor names, because names, are personal, are your way of identification.
When Offred says names, they are suppressing all identity, so stating that they know each others names, states that they are unique, and individuals. Aunt Lydia, says that there are different types of freedom; “there is more than one kind of freedom. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t you underrate it. ” I believe that although being able to run your money and your business, is a more obvious kind of freedom, being able to remember and fraternize with people is a more regarding one.
Because when you take things for granted, as it is freedom to, the emotional reward is not as fulfilling. When you feel the touch of someone, or fraternize with someone, or have friends, in a place, where no human contact is allowed, I believe that is a more satisfactory reward. You can control both, but, it is in your reason, to judge if you are making everything you can in order to get freedom from. And as a woman in this totalitarian regime, women can adopt the theocracy’s thoughts, self scarifying, or use what is in their power to be or feel free. one is not born a woman, but becomes one”.
Women are the ones who encourage sexism, and tabues, it is women who establishes that being pregnant is an honour. As Aunt Lydia, says “we were a society dying, of too much choice”, she says this when Offred is remembering about a movie theatre, where women were on the screen, being sex symbols, in order to manipulate men to do things. Women have the power to manipulate men through sex, because human kind is really concerned on transcending.
And through this thought of transcendent, where women have all the power, because they give birth, and it is their bodies, what they own. And in some cases, if necessary, they can abort, or hurt themselves, in order to show, who has the power to procreate and reproduce. Sexuality throughout the novel is presented as the most important symbol, as it represents freedom. Freedom is a very vague subject. Freedom is what makes you be. What defines you. Is seeking for the opportunity to reach to a desired state of well being.
Whether it is at Jezebel’s where, prostitutes serve men’s desires, and brake the law, and use their body to be subjects for men, showing that men still have desire towards women (prohibited and judged by church). Or for example, Offred is free to manipulate the Commander through his need for touch, and human contact, or conversation, showing that men need women as companionship, and still need to woo them. Throughout the novel, we see the contrasts of two kinds of freedom: the freedom before and after (or as aunt Lydia would say: freedom to and freedom from).
In both we can see sexuality inflicted. There is the freedom to use mini-skirts, and pants. But now, there is the freedom to “decide” who the father of your child will be, there is the freedom to think and remember, and there is the way to feel free by braking the law, like communicate, read, write. Because of fertility is a way to e free, women are really concerned on being pregnant, and giving birth as Offred says when Ofwarren is pregnant, “she’s a magic presence to us, an object of envy and desire (… ) we too can be saved”. So Everything that involves reproduction is a ritual.
That’s why there are too many symbols behind them, the signs outside the shops, the colour of the clothes, the wife’s vices, for example, Offred’s previous wife used to drink too much alcohol, Serena Joy smokes. There’s a strong symbolism of fertility in Serena joy’s garden, where “the tulips are opening their cups, spilling out colour”, or “here and there are worms, evidence of the fertility of the soil”. In the novel, when you are able to give birth you are a handmaid, and have certain power, freedom and distinction over other women. “.
Within women, there are stages of status and power. Wives have other kind of power, wives are allowed to smoke, smoke, is a symbol for feminism and empowerment, “really what I wanted was the cigarette”. So this gives the wives a certain feeling of supremacy; “she wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so”. There are the Aunts, who are the ones that teach all the theocratic methods, rules and laws. They have power over the handmaids, who are in a certain point of view the most powerful, because they are there to have the offspring.
Then are the Marthas who are servants, who can’t have any more children, so they do not matter anyone “but no body much cares who sees the face of a Martha”. There are un-women, who are sent over to the colonies, to deal with toxic substances, because, they don’t matter any more, they are un- women. Un-human, because they are no longer useful. Because women are just seen as incubators. Fertility is one of the most important themes of this novel and of women are there to procreate, as Offred says when she is at the doctor’s “give me children or else I die”.
Procreation is, a biblical term, as church forbids intercourse without procreative intent. So, by these means, women are restricted to have intercourse, only with the Commander, but ironically, as the most important thing is to procreate, and Commanders are old, most women that have babies aren’t with the Commanders, showing that they are free to have sex with whoever they want to, and they are in total control of their body, as they can decide who the father of their offspring will be. Fertility is really important, because women have the power to give birth.
Women have the power to reproduce human specie. Judging from what aunt Lydia says, “we were a society dying, of too much choice” I believe that this totalitarian regime, and real life in general have degraded women so much because, of the fear that women control the course of human life. As women are the ones that give birth. Another way to be free is to recognize what we own, this is related to fertility, because at the end, all that we own, is our body, which is everything. One of the basis of the theocratic thought was to deprive all women of their possessions.
But as Offred says at the beginning of the novel, “we still had our bodies, that was our fantasy”, this is the idea of this novel. When someone takes away all your possessions. They can’t take away the most valued one: your body. Within your body comes the thought of individuality, the judgement and comparison of the early times, now and the future. With your body you can manipulate and be therefore be manipulated, (for example, when the doctor merely forces Offred to have sex with him, in order to have children), but the most important thing is that you own your body, and therefore your life “I am alive, I breath”.
The addition of these two give as a result freedom, because, you can kill your body whenever you want to “it’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge”. And this freedom allows you to have power and fear. Fear because it is fertility what gives power to women’s body, because it allows you to recognize, whether you are in place to manipulate or not. For example, it does not matter so much if an un-women kills herself as, if it is a pregnant handmaid.
When a story is narrated in first person, you are allowed to doubt the narrator’s point of view, as it could be unreal, because it is introspective, as the narrator is telling us their story, their experience, and could be affected by their point of view, or maybe the narrator does not know the hole story, but in order to tell the hole story without any gap, they could invent events that never happened, or exaggerate the ones that did, in order to give more impact.
This story is told in first person, I believe as a symbol of freedom: freedom of speech, as it is a person, who should have no judgement, and therefore no point of view. What the Guiliad tried to do was to suppress any woman’s thought which were impure, and judgemental, when you listen to a story, it is the person’s statement; it involves judgement and self appreciation, things that women should not have in this regime. In the Handmaid’s tale, the narrator is offering us a story. With this story as a basis, we can judge it, believe it, or doubt it.
She just wrote something that could be true, and is true before her eyes. By these means “they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen”, so what this means s that; “We have learnt to see the world in gasps. ” But not just the reader, But the hole novel is based upon what could be a lie. Characters don’t know what’s happening. What we achieve to know are products of small talk, gossip, and what has being heard along the whole households, media and in propaganda. So what we really know is what the narrator knows, which could or could not be true.
One theory could be that because it is a well controlled totalitarian regime, one would expect that these small talks are never going to be seized, because they fit into the fear reign, and are allowed. What this means is that maybe this book, and everything that we thought to be free of speech is in fact a foreseen- controlled problem, which fits into the category “freedom”, in order to make people feel that can make a difference. I do believe that there is a freedom of speech.
That it is her memory, herself the one who makes a difference in a place where there is oppression. That it is her who remembers. Who can choose what to think in moments of adversity. It is she who can decide at the end who is going to be the father of her offspring. And it is her, who is going to choose the course of her life. Because it is she who fights against the system, by just remembering. We can see that Night are the moments in which she distinctively talks about her past, and about her memories. When she used to be free.