America’s Demise: Analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is not only controversial but is incredibly reflective of today’s American society. A majority of the points Atwood had pushed, such as the objectification of women and the loss of importance to words, have progressively been proven correct. Many references back to the worst of times in humanity show similar to the repetitive motion of history and present. Isolation is something that many dictatorships use to deter their people from rebelling or realizing the outside work is not what is to be planted into their minds. In Atwood’s novel there is an illusion of autonomy which, one could argue, is a pivotal part of modern society. Forcing children to choose their career paths around the time they are barely able, or in some cases, unable to vote is that same illusion. Government- mandated religious ideologies is largely the cause for the United States having become its own entity. The Handmaid’s Tale truly conveys the problems that could potentially arise from mixing religion and government. Atwood’s novel is so important to study because of the horrific reality that, if there is no change, that could be precisely where the United States of America will end up.

Atwood had an amazing ability to understand life as it was and piece together many of life as it is today. She saw and feared the perversion of American society’s relationship with women. The objectification of women and almost all people in The Handmaid’s Tale reflects heavily on American society. As time progresses, one can see the shift from modest young girls to girls just entering fertility becoming more provocative. Many thirteen-year-old girls dress the same as seventeen-year-olds. Society has shifted significantly from 1986, when the book was published. Girls are more viewed, today, as sexual creatures one can own, dominate, or use. As the strive for equality grows stronger, a more sinister agenda formulates for many to continue, or tighten, their oppression and repression of women or girls. This shift has not only affected the girls for generations to come but all consumers as well. In America, especially, people are seen as something to make profit from, or used as advertisement. As America continues to prosper, people are not necessarily seen as humans, but consumers. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the Gilead society reflects greatly on modern-day America. “…The form of a [capitalist] system founded largely on commodity production, one that seems inescapable and permanent; on the subjective side, reification involves the fragmentation or abstraction of individuals” (Fabijanci 106). When people become the product, they are no longer people. Consumerism and the technological age causes dehumanization to be immensely more prevalent. People are just seen as tools to keep profit flowing and they allow themselves to be inanimate to avoid the inevitable realization that they are nothing to those in power. “But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning” (Atwood 215). Humans justify their own worthlessness in order to feel they are more than just product. People claim they are just doing their part and that what they do is important, simply because someone in power tells them that it is.

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Another main reason The Handmaid’s Tale should be frightening is the isolation of an entire society. Many countries, empires, and dictatorships would, and do, separate their people from the rest of the world allowing them to have full control of the people’s thoughts. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il used isolation as a tactic to make his people believe that he was their hero. He made it seem as though the entire world were out to get North Korea and limited the people’s access outside of the country, internet, and news. The only news they got was fear-mongering, positive North Korean propaganda, and censored by the government. Until recently, North Korea was completely cut off from the outside world with the strict exception for very few. Still today a majority of people are naive about what goes on outside of the walls, or, rather, what goes on inside. Dictators have complete control over media and use that against their people. They limit the exposure of their people to the world by never allowing their conditions to fully be known. Atwood drew great parallels to control of media in a dictatorship, and the roll of false immunity to criticism, “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories” (57).

President Donald Trump wants to build a wall, calls any negative news about him and his administration fake, and continuously lies to the people. Many of his followers wouldn’t dare question Trump because he has made them believe he is the only salvation the country has from the current “downfall” of America. He is trying to control mainstream media by demonizing anyone who critiques him. He pays off people, particularly women, to be quiet about anything that could damage his reputation. “Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations” (Atwood 271). He talks about beautiful women like they are good china and ugly women like they are garbage. Women are being viewed as objects and America is letting them. Viewing women as secondary citizens is not a modern cultivation, rather, it has been instilled all throughout history. Women have always been somewhat lower status than men in many cultures and even in figurative speech. Feminity is seen as weak, lesser, not as quality. “When objects, jobs, or ideas, including art are considered useful, they are often gendered female and lowered in status….the historical erasure of women artists from the Middle Ages to the 1970s by the 20th century practice of gendering valuable art as MASTERpieces” (Kiefer-Boyd, Smith-Shank 141-142).

In America, someone can be whatever they want to be, only, the choice has to be made right after, sometimes during, high school. As long as one can figure their life out and know exactly where they want to end up, he/she will be fine. Children who are barely able to vote are forced to figure out what they want to be for the rest of their lives while sticking to the status quo. “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze” (Atwood 165). People choose where they want to end up, but they do not really have the choice to choose. They must choose. They have to. Decisions under pressure are not decisions.

Atwood explained that the Gilead is a possible American future and not something that could have come from her home country of Canada. She said in an interview that it is not in Canadian culture to be so dramatic as to end all rights for women or mandate a religion. ‘Canadians might do …some sort of watered down version. [Canadian] television evangelists are more paltry than [the United States]. The States are more extreme in everything’ (Reesman 7). The future Gilead society is only an American possible future. There is no other first world country that is as extreme and over the top than the USA. Atwood even explains that the rest of the world watches the States to see how things would be for fifteen years or so. America is not influenced by any other country; America is the influence. “The Handmaid’s Tale is an impassioned denouncement of religious fundamentalism, a vision of life in a repressive theocracy, the Republic of Gilead, inspired in part by the rise of the Religious Right in America in the early 1980s” (Hoogheem 66). The 1980s’ movement for Christian rights did not stop on the doorstep of 1990, but has continually crept its way into American political policies. Many conservative congress members, and other authoritative government spots, have called for Christianity to take a seat in the oval office and aid in the creation and passing of bills, laws, and down to the people. The current administration has been passing many bills that threaten the American constitution. Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental amendments to all Americans, yet questionable religious bills have made their way through the highest tiers of government, asking for there to be more privatization in society so they can be religious. Religion motivated politics is a major point Atwood was pushing through out the book, saying that there is no place for religion in politics.

Recently, in the States, there have been many warning signs of the Gileadian era vastly approaching. The constant objectification of women, and all people, being turned into a product, rather than human should be seen as a problem. Wanting America to become isolated, in order to protect people on the inside is a massive red flag. Forcing children to make major life choices, giving them the option to pick a mound of debt or to be, most likely, financially unstable, is and should be frightening. Allowing the government privatize every aspect of society and passing religious bills should never be allowed. Each day, Americans are letting the government infringe on their rights because they want to make a contribution to society. Each day, the United States of America is moving closer to becoming the Republic of the Gilead. Each day, people are losing their freedom and no one is doing anything about it. “There is more than one kind of freedom….Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it” (Atwood 24). Freedom from a tyrannical government to be given freedom to choose the lesser of two evils is not freedom. Freedom is how America will continue to prosper and taking that away will only lead to the downfall of a society.

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America’s Demise: Analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale. (2022, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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