Explore the ways in which religion is presented and its importance in the Handmaid’s tale. Religion is presented in a numerous amount of ways in the Handmaid’s tale. Christianity or Puritanism is the leading faith in Gilead and is portrayed as a controlling mechanism, which not only controls people’s bodies but strives to control their minds. Inside Gilead biblical and religious references act as fundamental laws and polices towards the controlling regime of Gilead. The people within the regime of Gilead are subjected to harsh and rigid lifestyles. This is justified by the leaders of Gilead by the use of the bible.
From Offred’s perspective we can see the strictness of the regime that she lives in. For example “They can hit us there is scriptural precedent”. Atwood clearly displays the theme of fundamentalism to demonstrate the ideologies of those that impose the rules Gilead. Offred’s perspective often gives the reader an insight into how one would feel if put in the situation of having the regime of Gilead imposed on them. Offred describes some of her actions when she is alone in her room, “I can spend minutes, tens of minutes running my eyes over the print FAITH”.
This emphases to the reader the notion of hope and that if Offred is going to escape or survive the regime with her sanity intact she needs to have “faith”. Weather that is religious faith in the religion she has come to hate or alternatively it may be faith in herself that she can survive even in this time of dyer. Handmaids wear the colour red which signifies life, lust and love. However in this colour Offred sees herself as a “sister dipped in blood” this is ironic as “sister” is referring to a nun. Handmaids share many aspects of their lifestyles with living in a nunnery.
For example the solitude and the excessive covering up of body parts. However there is one lifestyle trade that handmaids and nuns do not share. While nuns take a vow of celibacy, the sole purpose of Handmaid’s is to have sexual intercourse. This view of Offred presents irony. In addition to this the use of “blood” may give the reader connotations of sin and misconduct. This reveals that Offred believes what she is doing is wrong and sinful. In addition to Offred’s perspective, religion as a theme is introduce in the society of Gilead.
While religion may be introduced through a controlling means to justify the polices of the regime. But in Gilead it is not so much seen as practical part of life. For example many parts of religion that one would associate with the modern day do not exist in the world of Gilead. For example in Gilead “the church is a small one… It isn’t used any more, except as a museum. ” This demonstrates that Gilead is only theoretically religious and doesn’t practice many practical elements of religion like going to church as they are not used in the world of Gilead.
In addition to this Offred also shows that nunneries do not exist in the regime of Gilead. “time is measured in bells, as once in nunneries”. By saying “as once in nunneries” it reveals that they are not around anymore. This shows another practical element of religion that has been abolished. Not only have the leaders of Gilead used the bible as political justification to their regime they have also invented new parts of the bible to further control people. “Blessed are the silent. I knew they made that up, I knew it was wrong, and they left things out too, but there was no way of checking.
” The fact that Gilead has made up new parts of the bible shows the leader have used fundamentalism as an excuse for the creation of the regime. In addition to this the fact that women had no way of checking shows they have no access to bibles therefore another practical part of religion is not in practise. Religion is presents the main strengths that Gilead uses to control the different positions and is used as a justification method. However religion is also what defeats Gilead as this is what gives Offred hope and faith.