The gothic elements in the HandMaid’s Tale Essay
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In Dracula, Jonathan and Mina are separated twice; him going to another continent, and her becoming a vampire. The Handmaid’s Tale is no different. Before the narrator – Offred- was launched into the new regime, she was a normal woman, with a child and a husband, Luke. They were a happy couple, even though now as she remembers back to him, she can’t remember loving him. She is too brainwashed, and doesn’t like to think or remember. It is simpler for her to not.
“I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed.
Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last. ” (p. 7) As the story is told, we learn that she has been taken away from her husband and child and does not know what has happened to them and vice versa. The constant unknown destiny of her tiny family tortures her mind and at times she is so overwhelmed by grief at her loss, she would prefer to commit suicide than live any longer. Offred cannot bare her separation from her loved ones and hence has begun to think of them as dead, since it is easier to handle than to think that they are living and being mistreated in some way.
The separation of lovers is a red flag indicating a gothic novel. In most gothic novels starting with the first, Castle of Otranto, and carried through almost every gothic novel since then, is the inscription. In the castle of Otranto, the inscription was on the giant helmet; in Romance of the Forest it was on an old scroll. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the inscription is carved by a fingernail into the floor of the back of the closet in Ofred’s room. She finds it while exploring and thinks it is written in Latin. “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”.
Although it takes her awhile to decode the message – meaning ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’ – she is sure it is from the previous tenant, and intended for her eyes. This message brings her strength, knowing that she is not the only one to suffer the frustrations of being a handmaid. The message brings her comfort and a sense of solidarity with the other captive women. A very interesting theme throughout this novel is the color red. It is mentioned on almost every page in the book and I take it to symbolize two contrasting things: freedom and the ceasing of freedom.
The ‘Red Centre’ is a place of reformation of the women, it is where their liberty is taken away, yet it is also the color of Moira’s shoes, who represents liberty. Red is the color of all the handmaid’s dresses which are nun-like and restrictive, but it is also the color free tulips in the garden of the Commander. Although tulips represent an offering of love, the garden represents life and freedom. Another puzzling element are the three dead men hanging on the wall.
They are all masked with white sacks on their heads, but one of them has bled from the mouth and soaked through the white sack in the shape of a mouth. I can only speculate that this represents the stolen freedom of the man, and the life which was taken from him. All through this novel we see that the color red is a major theme and is vital in emphasizing freedom or the lack of it. A characteristic of the gothic novel is the multiple suitors to one woman. Romance of the Forest demonstrates this quite well by having Adeline persued by three men including the Marquis de Montalt, young La Motte and Theodore.
The novel Dracula also illustrates this with Lucy’s three suitors who all ask her to marry them, her only accepting the last proposal. The Handmaid’s Tale is similar yet quite different. Even though it is set in the future, their practice is quite primitive. The novel is about sharing fertile women. A fertile woman is passed from house to house and must have sex with the household’s Commander. This practice demonstrates multiple men per woman on a common scale, but on a more personal scale, Ofred, our main character, has the classic three men in her life.
Luke, her husband in her former life, before the regime; the Commander, who’s obligation it is to fornicate with her and to procreate, and lastly Nick who is the object of her desire. All of these three men, represent different elements of her. Luke is her love and her past, the Commander is her duty and her thralldom and Nick is her lust and personal freedom. Gothic literature was originally written as a reaction to the age of reason, order, and the politics of eighteenth-century England. In the 1980s, Margaret Atwood wrote this novel as a dark satire and a social commentary.
She shames our society today in her mock futuristic Gileadean society and rudely reveals where we may be headed if we continue on this route as a society. Although the events in this story are highly unlikely to take place, the attitudes and values it conveys are present in today’s society such as the protection of women and the objectification of women. Although The Handmaid’s Tale reads like a nightmare for most women, it is a great gothic and feministic book. It encompasses intricately complex themes and boggles one’s mind that one author could write such amazingly intriguing literature.
By revealing many gothic elements in this novel including: the castle, the inscription, the parting of lovers and the classic woman in distress; it is proved that The Handmaid’s Tale is in fact of the gothic genre.
Works Cited Atwood, Margaret. “The Handmaid’s Tale. ” O. W. Toad Limited. 1986 Stoker, Bram. “Dracula. ” Penguin Classics. New York. 1993. Radcliffe, Ann. “Romance of the Forest. ” Oxford World’s Classics. New York. 1998 Study Guide to Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale. 1996-2000.
Copyright Paul Brians. http://www.wsu. edu:8080/~brians/science_fiction/handmaid. html Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale. 1994-2000. Copyright Houghton Mifflin. http://endeavor. med. nyu. edu/lit-med/lit-med-db/webdocs/webdescrips/atwood157-des-. html Sparknotes:The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood. 2002. http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/handmaid/ 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.