The Handmaid’s tale Essay
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‘Spectacle’ could mean, more so from a male opinion, an impressive sight but in this context Aunt Lydia’s definition is the exact opposite; a ridiculous sight. ‘Oiling themselves like roast meat on a spit, and bare backs and shoulders, on the street, in public, and legs, not even stockings on them, no wonder those things used to happen to them’. The implication that women are to blame for being assaulted or raped is Puritanical. Her speech is that passionate and convincing that it is not hard to imagine Aunt Lydia actually held these old fashioned, religious convictions in the time before.
It is possible that Atwood intended irony with reference to the song that Offred was singing at the beginning of the chapter and the views shared by the regime and in particular the views expressed by Aunt Lydia in this chapter. ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound Could save a wretch like me, Who once was lost, but now I’m found Was bound, but now am free. ‘ ‘Wretch’, could be used by the regime to describe the women of the time before; despicable, rascal-like women. They had previously been lost but now under this regime they have been ‘saved’, but the dramatic irony lies in the last sentence where the opposite is in fact true i. e.
they were free before but are bound now. Another of Aunt Lydia’s speeches, in chapter 8 pg 55, she states that men are born with an innate inability to control their libidol desires, ‘They can’t help it, she said, God made them that way but he did not make you that way. He made you different’. She provides justification for their action because ‘they can’t help it’. So the only way to crack down on fornication, co-habitation and adultery is to control the women, whom are the real danger to society. ‘Such things do not happen to nice women’. Under this regime they will be protected from such ‘things’ and therefore they will be ‘nice’ women.
Throughout this novel Aunt Lydia is a highly influential body to the Gileadian regime. She promotes its barbarism and justifies it by demonising the past. She is a loyal ambassador and great believer in the regime. Most of her speeches seem to form the basis of gratitude and how the handmaids should learn to be grateful for what Gilead has given them: protection (or so it claims). She is able to, like Serena Joy, falsify her emotions to compliment her arguments, bringing tears easily to dramatise her speeches, ‘… and at that she began to cry, standing up there in front of us, in full view.’, making a spectacle of herself?
With progression Offred tells the reader how her new life has now become that of the norm. From what had once been clear resistance; refusing to register her room as her own to ‘Even this is as usual, now’. She has become well accustomed to her new environment and it has now become her second nature. ‘Is that how we lived then? ‘ Human nature is adaptable. Initially the environment had been completely alien to her and although she may not be at ease with it, it has become more natural for her. The narrator from the time before is a representative of a ‘normal’ woman.
‘We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. ‘ Ignorance is when knowledge is lacking and to ignore is not to take notice of. Clearly, the narrator was not ignorant to the changes that were occurring she simply chose to detach herself from it; she chose to ignore. She was what we would call ordinary. Freedom was gained by ignoring and not becoming involved, ‘It gave us more freedom’. Perhaps Atwood is being critical of the reader here, suggesting that we as a human race are too passive about issues which could ultimately be life changing or life threatening.
Also, perhaps the narrator is also being critical of herself with reference to her missing out on the demonstrations that took place before the regime was fully established. ‘We lived in the gaps between the stories. ‘ and this is perhaps what we do as ordinary people in our everyday lives. Dramatic things happen to others. We observe from the sidelines. November 2003 Miss. Slocombe Nasima Begum 12B Pg 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.