As one of the most striking differences between Gilead and “the time before” the categorisation of people is also one of the most interesting. People are functionalised, colour coded accordingly, and frequently referred to by their function rather than by individual names. This is reflective of Gilead’s attitude, which does not value individual rights or freedoms, “freedom to”, rather they profess the importance of “freedom from”. However, Atwood reveals that rather than protecting people, women especially, their loss of liberty controls them.
Women are not at risk from random rape attacks, rather rape is institutionalised, individual violence has ceased to exist, but the state practises torture. The balance between “freedom from” and “freedom to” is not only heavily weighted, the freedom froms are also illusional and just a masquerade for greater state control. The idea of a loss of identity is reaffirmed by the Handmaid’s names which are a … , women’s autonomy is denied, rather they are seen as the property of men.
The premise of Gilead is of a system other than Capitalism, but we see that status is actually regimented in this society, and the definition of possessions has been broadened to include people. Gilead has manipulated one of the demands of the Women’s movement for a “Woman’s culture” justifying it through its emphasis on motherhood. Greater appreciation of motherhood was an aspiration of the women’s movement although Gilead is in no way a feminist ideal. Thus, Gilead can be recognised as a warning of extreme opinions and the dangers of slogans, which are too easy to pervert.
The fragmentation of women’s roles is supposedly in recognition of the many roles women had previously been expected to play. The co – operation between and within the different roles supposedly establishes notions of sisterhood, another feminist ideal, of women appreciating their role and helping each other “along the path of life”. Ironically, the categorisation of women serves to empower the state, as the women are set in statual conflict, for example wives and handmaids. Women are also used as enforcers of the regime, creating enmity between each other, for example the aunts.
As a result Gilead rules by the most effective and oldest strategy, “divide and conquer”. The presentation of Gilead is oppressive, repressive and brutal. The state rules by terror, Aunts wear “electric cattle prods”, deviation from the Gileadean theology is not tolerated. In the quest to deny both the freedom of expression and the right to individuality, unconformers are treated harshly. They are either sent to the Colonies, toxic slave camps reminiscent of those during the Holocaust where death was imminent, or shown as an example on the wall.
The wall being an exhibition of those who had been executed by the state, the crimes vary from religious non-conformity to acts of homosexuality. Gilead is also presented as deeply hypocritical. It dictates that biblical law is state law, and that the bible is to be read literally, but deviates from the bible in it policy. For example, in the biblical story of Mary and martha, it is Mary that Jesus praises but Gilead adopts Martha as the model for its women. Offred’s commander is one of the founding members of the regime, which prohibits publications of all types.
However the Commander manages to retain copies of women’s magazines and his study is full of books, “an oasis of the forbidden”. The hypocrisy is highlighted most by the state run brothel, “Jezebels”. Although Gilead condemns promiscuity and preaches of the sanctity of marriage, the founders of the regime are unable to live such a puritanical life and so the elite is allowed “variation”. One of the greatest paradoxes of the novel is that whilst Gilead is a futuristic state where “computalk” exists, many aspects of Gileadean life are reminiscent of Puritanical societies of the past.
In fact, Gilead encourages study of puritanical history, which they believe justifies its claim that it is ” a return to nature’s norm”. Gilead’s ideology is a backlash to all the civil rights movements that had been fighting for greater equality, it is a regimented and oppressive society in which back people and women find themselves pushed to the bottom of the social ladder. Atwood explicitly refers to totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, asking the reader to question why such repressive societies are created.
By drawing on other historical backlashes she emphasises the circularity of history and the importance of civil rights movements. The references to history remind the reader that whilst Gilead is an imaginary stare, it is not completely unrealistic, “Gilead’s genius was synthesis”. Gilead in a very amplified way also mirrors the backlash in the 80s against the feminist movement. Gilead is a frightening example of a modern tyrannical regime. What is most interesting is that it exploits tensions present within our society, such as racial conflicts, to gain and maintain power.
This is a warning to all of us about the dangers of all extreme ideologies, and the threat of complacency that allows repressive backlashes to occur. As Gilead reduces people to mere functions it is also a very impersonal society in which relationships are dictated and controlled. Atwood paints the deprivation of love as a cold and lonely picture, and so Gilead is also a reminder that the intimate and the domestic, the aspects of Offred’s’ old life which she keeps returning to, and which are infinitely valuable. “There is more than one type of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy it was freedom to.
Now you are being given freedom from. ” Examine the quality of life for women in the light of Aunt Lydia’s statement, illustrating the methods used to “protect” women. . In this society women do not have great individual freedom, they do not have a lot of choice or control over their lives. That is not to say that there isn’t something valuable about being protected from the dangers of attack or assault. What we deduce about Gilean society is that women are not really protected from these things. Whiost women do not face the danger of being raped on the street by a stranger, women are forced into sex for procreation reasons.
As proved by the commanders club and Offred’s incident with the soldier women are still viewed as sex objects, in fact this may be the only power women have been left with which is contrary to the Gilead ethos. One has to question many of the new “freedom from”s and ask whether these measures are designed to protect women, or whether they are devised to maintain order, an order which protects the power and control of men, who abuse women, and demean to the value of objects. “A successful life for her was one that avoided things, excluded things. ” “It was my own fault. I led them on.
I deserved the pain. ” Gilead I The Gilead state is a reactionary and totalitarian regime. It is a backlash to all the gains that we today would consider progreesive. In response to terrorist attacks, Cjristian fundamentalists take power via a coup d’etat, under the guise of “protection” uintil new democratic elections could be held. These elections fail to materialize, and the people of Gilead are subjected to the new order through means of terror, torture and a policy of assasination. Gilead is a patriachal, hierachial society, in which women find themselves at the bottom of the social ladder.
They lose the most control of their lives, which is justified by them gaining safety. Gilead strives to “protect” women from the violence, abuse and rape that was rife in “the time before”. Women are not allowed to chose what they wear, shapeless robes are prescribed which don’t flatter their figures, and prevent vanity. This is a way of controlling and surpressing women’s sexuality. Neityer women nor men have sexual freedom within the new system, relationships of all kinds, including friendships are controlled and dictated. Promiscuity is considered a precursor of rape.
Cite this essay
Woman’s culture. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/womans-culture-7297-new-essay