Comparing Our Modern Society to the Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale written by the great author Margaret Atwood is a story that creates a supposed Utopian society wherein political systems are governed by biblical propaganda and traditional values are restored. Dodson (1997) asserts that The Republic of Gilead have been established within United States of America’s borders which introduces a social characteristic that clearly opposes the image of the American society today. Theocracy and Military Dictatorship is the type of government and no other religion is tolerated other than the state’s religion.
The rights of women are clearly stripped off in the novel. It was categorized according to usage and function. An example of this is the situation of advantaged women who are married to top officials of the republic. On the other hand feminists, sterile and lesbians are labeled as “Unwomen”, they are shunned to the lives of the “Colonies” (Atwood).
The new society, evidently, is formed based on what can be regarded in the modern times as a “backward” view on re-creating a society. Gilead puts power on men while women kept on struggles to fight for their rights. The new republic is disturbing because Gilead manages to enslave women and continuously strips off their rights.
Unlike the modern society where women are given the freedom to be liberated and engage in premarital sex, the republic of Gilead prohibits women from having sex as pleasure. The country functions in a twisted way and for some reasons wives can have children on behalf of a ceremony in which their husbands sleep with the Handmaid assigned to their household. There are women who were allowed to read and write but they belong to certain types. Most of them can mingle with other people but their socialization is still limited and in most cases they are under surveillance. Women are only allowed to socialize when they have business deals. The present modern society prefers private execution but in the novel the execution is done in public where convicted criminals ranging from abortionists and homosexuals are hanged at the Wall (Atwood).
Most cases in the novel show the opposite of the modern society but there are also similarities. Dodson pointed out one commonality which where Gilead functions similar to the United States in a sense it has a strong imperialistic grasp, and that those who do not agree with the United States’ views on acceptable governance, in a way, end up at the “Wall”. United States is a country that strongly promotes democracy however it has been reinforced in nations who do not have the same views on democracy.
Another difference presented in the story is how modern society works when it comes to open communication. The use of language Iin the novel is guided by verbal hygiene which is implemented through formal communication (Cavalcanti). Republic of Gilead is truly the opposite of what the modern society is. However there are themes presented in the novel that shows context of dystopia which can also exist today. A nightmare is presented in Gilead due to power and control by people in authority. Suppression and execution is also viewed as the only solution to end up problems faced by the society. It is an evident factor that the modern society can exhibit in the present times.
The concept of Utilitarianism is also prevalent in the novel which can also be applicable at present. The benefit of majority’s happiness and pleasure is always put into consideration. The concept of survival of the Gilead population is prioritize even if it means degrading the status if women and treats them as sexual symbols. It is the clear opposite of the modern society where women are well respected and given the chance to lead.
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Atwood, M. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: Seal. 1985.
Cavalcanti, I. Utopias of/f Language in Contemporary Feminist Literary
Dystopias. Utopian Studies, 11, pp. 152+. 2000.
Dodson, D. “We Lived in the Blank White Spaces”: Rewriting the Paradigm of
Denial in Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale. Utopian Studies, 8, pp. 66+. 1997.