Discourse and Oppression in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Story picture of a (like a terrible, scary world) (community of people/all good people in the world) named the Republic of Gilead, where a bunch of religion-driven (people who strongly believe in a powerful central government) take complete control and resort to (dishonest and wrong) means to get what they want. In order to increase the number of the white population, new laws are set which take away from the women in Gilead, of their rights and reduce their roles to mothers and servants.

Young and life-giving women are the "handmaids", and they are needed/demanded to live with an important official such as the Commander in chief. Every month, they go through an impregnation (formal, special event or series of actions). These women are also robbed of their names (before marriage). The most easily understandable references are the ways people are named in Gilead. Men are thought of as more important and respectable, namely 'Guardians of the faith' or Commanders of the Faithful'.

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Members of the police force are seen as 'Eyes of the Lord'. Soldiers who fight on the battlefields are called 'Angels of the (the terrifying end of the world)'.

The spies who keep tabs on the people of Gilead and make sure no one commits sneaky, criminal behavior, are called the' Eyes'. Meanwhile, the women in Gilead have names according to the classes they belong to. They are name 'Wives', 'Econowives', 'Handmaids', 'Martha's' or unwoman', Martha refers the sister of Mary, who served Jesus Christ.

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The state of Gilead uses religious (strictly following religious laws) to give a good reason for male politically, Gilead social policies are based on the from the Bible. By saying certain passages from the Bible to the women, they are made to feel like whatever would be done to them would not be cruel and dishonest. More than that, abuse/mistreatment of the Bible is seen in the story when the Commander walk into the room and says the Beginning/creation 30: 1-3 '' And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel was jealous of her sister; and said unto Jacob, give me children, or else I die.'' much like Jacob (unhappy disappointment) at Rachel's inability to bear children, the Commander blamed his wife.

In the (community of people/all good people in the world) of Gilead, men used to pass the blames on their wives instead of calling themselves unable to have children/grow crops or (having no germs/unable to have children). Beginning/creation 30: 1-3 has a connection with the story in the sense that the Commander's wife is suddenly made very sick with frustration because she cannot understand/create and she would have Offred carry her husband's baby if requred, like Rachel would have her sister do.

The name of the state itself is taken from the Bible. Gilead is a very peaceful, clean and life-giving place in Palestine according to the Old Testament. The people in power want to call them/label themselves as a life-giving and strong (community of people/all good people in the world) just like it is represented in the Bible. In reality, they are a (not totally pure/not totally correct) terrible, scary world full of (dishonest actions that ruin your trust), pollution and terribly unfair treatment.

Only certain set phrases, taken from the Bible, can be used to communicate with another person. These include '' May the Lord open''. ''Praise be'', and the like. Their conversation should be laced with religious overtones. (in almost the same way), reading and writing is also prohibited in Gilead.

When Offred is listening to the Extreme happiness or blessednesss along the other Handmaids, she knows that the (public speech or performance) is being edited and the original passage is not the same in the Bible. However, she cannot be sure exactly what was being left out as they were not allowed to read. The only person who could get their hands on the Bible was the Commander himself. This way none of the Handmaids could question anything, has an idea that there is something wrong.

There are prayer machines in Gilead which print out an endless long, rolled-up written document of prayers every day. These are ordered by the Wives of Commanders to reward thie faith. Strangely enough, they are not allowed to read these prayers. These papers re constantly recycled and ordered again. This is a further example of how religion is taken advantage of and used for personal benefit rather than religious belief.

Offred practices her own form of prayer where she uses the (Bible-related) words and twists them to bring across her feelings of love, hate, fear, etc. and speak to God. While praying, she says that she has enough bread and her hunger is not the main issue; it ws the swallowing of the bread without choking on it, which was (irritating/making worse) (in an unexpected yet interesting way (where something happened that's the opposite of what is expected)), the word 'bread' as a polite word for her troubles and feelings that there is no hope.

Offred cannot escape Gilead even if she wants to as she is bound by strict rules and regulation which give a good reason for themselves through (Bible-related) passages and references. Events like public execution are called ' Saving (from the trash)s'. Also, the 'Eyes' spy on the people and this act is a seen/obvious analog of the passage in the Bible which said that the Lord has all seeing eyes, which travel throughout the world, keeping human in check and making sure that they provide their services to him. The Commander reads this passage at the monthly prayer (formal, special event or series of actions), Gilead literally translate the meaning as the Eyes keeping the person (who lawfully lives in a country, state, etc.) under control so that they go along with their daily lives exactly following the law.

The theme of Beginning/creation 30: 1-3 runs throughout the story. As talked about/said in the bible, women in Israel lost their honor of they were unable to provide a child to their husbands. Their young women/cleaning women would help by being their substitutes.

Gilead readopts this practice and gives the Handmaids their roles in the (community of people/all good people in the world) by repeatedly teaching this law with religion and giving them a false sense of purpose. The Handmaids are educated at the Rachel and Leah Centre, named after the characters in Beginning/creation 30: 1-3.

Even the appearances of the Handmaids have to be religious looking. They have to sport red gown with white wings, much like nuns. Offred refers to her fellow Handmaids as ''sisters dipped in blood''. The law states that a Handmaids should not go wandering about without a fellow Handmaid by her side. They have to live in tiny rooms without any mirrors.

At an impregnation (formal, special event or series of actions) and birthing (formal, special event or series of actions), the Handmaid has to lie on the Commander's wife's stomach, with the wife's knees around her. This fellows Rachel's words ''she will bear opon my knees.'' Her other words, ''Give me children else I die'', also rings true, as any Handmaid who does not understand/create after being sent to three houses would be sent to the (groups of people or other living things), where she would die at a certain point.

During the women's 'Prayvaganzas; the Commander (in a picky way where only certain things are selected) says certain parts of the Bible to convince the women that their (state of mind where someone will definitely do something if needed) to obey the rule would grant them peace in the time after death. He controlled/moved around/misled the Handmaids to get them to do what he wants. Using religion as a tool to (change someone's mind through force and tricks) them.

''Let the women learn in silence with all subjection? All? But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to forcefully take authority over the man, but to be silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve?''

It is not just the name of the people (who lawfully live in a country, state, etc.) which have been changed to sound more Christian; objects and shops have also gone through the same treatment. Shops have names such as 'All flesh; 'Milk and Honey; and 'Loaves and Fishes; A clothing sore names 'Lilies' is a reference to a line in a passage titled Mathew 6:28.'Milk and honey is a reference to the description of the Promised Land, which read'' A land flowing with milk and honey''. All Flesh' is the name of a butcher shop, and it from Isaiah 40:5 but the original phrase is 'All of people/(the kindness of people)''

When the Handmaid eat lunch, they always listen to a recorded tape of a prayer. It is always a man voice because the Aunts are not allowed to read the prayers. It further shows/indicates the authority men hold over women in Gilead.

The prayer blesses the people who are poor in spirit, the Kind, the shy and weak, the silent and the ones who silently suffer (because of death), so that these people are gifted with the good qualities/the advantage of Heaven. In this picture/situation, the Handmaids are the (talked-about, but possibly not true/real) ones who are poor in fairy, kind, shy and weak, silent and suffering (in sadness). Gilead twists this prayer to bring across the message in a way that the Handmaid are condition to be those weakened and (always following all orders and rules) so that they are 'blessed' by the Lord

The whole story highlights the how words can be twisted and understood/explained in exact

Updated: Nov 22, 2022
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Discourse and Oppression in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/discourse-and-oppression-in-margaret-atwoods-the-handmaids-tale-essay

Discourse and Oppression in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale essay
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