Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Handmaid's Tale

Within the novel, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, the many biblical allusions are very apparent. A few of them are the Rachel & Leah Centre, Gilead, Loaves & Fishes, and Milk and Honey. One could say that all of these biblical allusions are used for the sole purpose of furthering Atwood's satiric purpose in the novel. The Rachel & Leah enter represent the two sisters from the bible, Rachel and Leah who forced their handmaids/servants to sleep with their husband and to bear children. Ultimately it turned into a competition to fight for their husbands love. At the Rachel & Leah Centre in the novel, the women are taught to accept the idea that their duty to Gilead is provide a child for the family in which they reside with. They sleep with the Wife's husbands as part of the annual ritual. The name Gilead from the novel is a very barren, wasteland devastated by pollution and war. The society however tries to portray that the land is fertile and the best possible place to live in. Gilead from the Bible is a very fertile, desirable region in Ancient Palestine. Both Gilead's contradict themselves and create irony. The novel also replaces names like the bakery or butcher with Biblical names such as "Loaves & Fishes", "All Flesh", "Lilies of the Field", or "Milk and Honey". By renaming even food and clothes shops like this, the society manages to establish references to the Bible in every aspect of daily life. The new names are also meant to abandon old names for for shops that supposedly are "too much temptation" for the citizens. However, these names are highly ironic for they suggest abundance, while food in Gilead is in short supply.

"We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories" (57).

The quote above speaks about the Handmaid's of the novel. These women are viewed as in the way possessions by most. The handmaid's have barely and freedom. They are all the same leaving them emotionless and like a blank piece of paper. They live an invisible life for the most part being that their only sole purpose is to reproduce. The ironic part is that the Handmaid's view the only freedom they have being that they are invisible. The newspaper symbol is a representation of the society in which they reside in. The words are the higher rankings within while the Handmaid's, who basically equate to nothing, are the blank spaces on the edges-- waiting to be used only when necessary.

I enjoyed this novel thoroughly. I had read it last year as part of an English project and even then I found it amusing. For women to sit back and accept being degraded like this is baffling. I also enjoyed Margaret Atwood's use of satire. It helped portray her message. I enjoy novels that cause controversy and this was certainly one of them. It brought light upon certain topics that sometimes get ignored. It was not your typical book one reads for English class. I feel that all English classes should read this. It has more of a powerful message while not being boring at the same time.

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