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Atwood presents women in the novel? Essay

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Atwood includes in the novel Offred as a young child watching her mother burning pornographic magazines because she wants her readers to question how far the women in the society at the time the novel was set involved in creating the Gilead regime; feminists takes part in activities such as campaigning against pornographic materials and disrupting beauty contests because they believe that they are degrading to women, Atwood is saying that by protesting against such, they are agreeing that censorship should be brought in and that women should be ‘protected’ from such material; at the heart of the Gilead regime is the ‘protection women’.

Margaret Atwood is challenging militant feminists to decide at what cost are they ready to pay in order create the matriarchal society they are campaigning for.

Also Atwood is warning the readers that the notion of the need ‘protect women’ can be dangerous; it could slip from a demand for more freedom to a kind of neo-Victorianism, after all it was the need to ‘protect women’ that justified all manners of women subordination in the 19th Century including confining women to the kitchen and barring them from voting.

Before writing this novel, Atwood collected newspaper clippings and reporting events from the feminist movement, religious right-wing groups and various cultural practices around the world so, this tangled debate could also be referring to the views contemporary Islamic women who argues that the veil and the all-enveloping clothing is aimed at dealing with sexual harassment and sexual objectification.

By including this in the novel, Margaret Atwood is warning her reader to be careful of such promises; the language is feminist, but the results could be deeply patriarchal-as it is in the book. Throughout, Atwood presents different types of women and their different responses to the patriarchal regime of Gilead, two of which are Janine and Moira. Moira is flamboyantly unconventional and possesses unshakeable self-assurance, refusing to subscribe to the ideologies of Gilead by her subversive attitude to life. Atwood presents Moira as a symbol of hope for Offred. Like Offred, her function in Gilead is to conceive, but she does not let this bother her as she sees herself escaping Gilead one day, in fact it is this determination that helps her escape the mental madness.

Moira in the novel is also portrayed as an asset to the other handmaids in the Red Centre because her seditious humour is used as a weapon against the tyranny of the Aunts. The author also presents Moira as the voice of reason e. g. in chapter 28, Offred tells of how critical Moira was when she found out that Offred was involved in an extra-marital affair with Luke “she disapprove back then. Not of Luke but the fact that he was married”. As mentioned before, feminism is not a uniform body of thought hence different feminists have different feminist beliefs; Margaret Atwood is using the character of Moira to show the readers the other strands of feminism.

Moira is a lesbian and like Offred’s mother, she is also a politically aware feminist and conscious of her right as women but unlike Offred’s mother, she does not have to go to extreme lengths to fight for equality; Moira’s idea of feminism is being assertive as a women and being loyal to other women (hence she accuses Offred of “stealing” Luke) Moira’s reluctance to conform to rules of Gilead is crucial to her mental stability and her survival. Margaret Atwood contrast Moira’s reluctance to subscribe to the ideologies of Gilead with Janine, who deeply believes and accepts the Gilead regime.

Janine is both a victim of freedom and oppression. In the novel, we told that as a handmaid, she was left to wound her own emotional scares when her baby was declared ‘unborn’ and destroyed because it was deformed and also that before the Gilead regime she was gang-raped something she is made to believe by the Aunts that it is her fault “her fault, her fault, we chant in unison”.

There are great parallels between these events; in each case, she is a powerless individual, victimised as a women and her baby is destroyed. Janine’s fragility reinforces Moira’s inner strength. Janine’s drift into madness in chapter 43 serves as Atwood’s way of telling the readers that people can not be forced into believing in something imposed on them and that true converts of the Gilead regime are eventually into driven insane by the system’s inhumane practices. Page 1 of 3 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.

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