There are many unique features that make up a heroine of a story. Generally, the hero or heroine is the main protagonist of the story, and they are likely to be a very strong and extraordinary character.
This strength is not just physically, but also emotionally and intellectually. Their bravery and luck tends to get themselves out of trouble. In Offred’s case, it appears that she is mentally and emotionally very strong, and luck seemed to be on her side, during most of the story.
Despite this, Offred is not a heroine to a large extent, and there are many reasons why she does not fulfil the role of a heroine.
There is immediate references that Offred is going to be the heroine of the story from the first chapter, where she explains a few of the ways that the girls rebel. They “learned to whisper” and “learned to lip-read”, which gave the reader signs that they intentionally broke the rules of their society in whatever way possible.
Later into the story, there are more signs that Offred is going to break the rules and rebel against the Aunts and Guards, and other higher members of the hierarchy. When Offred sees the message “Nolite te bastardes caborundorum” it appears to inspire her.
Although Offred does not know that it means “don’t let the bastards grind you down”, she still feels it “pleases” her to see it. This is because she knows that another handmaid has left that message for the next handmaid to read.Offred shows her true rebellious side in chapter 17, when she decides to steal something from the kitchen. She decides to steal “something that will not be missed.
..a withered daffodil” and then leaves it under her mattress for the next handmaid to find. In the kitchen she meets Nick.
They both want to have sex, but fear that they will be caught, and only kiss. Offred makes it clear that she “like to” but then realises that it is “illegal”. In that same meeting with Nick, she is led into something even more illegal with the commander. Yet another rule Offred breaks in this chapter when she masturbates.
This is another illegal act in the Gilead society, and Offred describes herself as “white, hard, granular…dried rice”.
All of the acts in chapter 17 show how much of a heroine Offred really is, as she breaks rules, but never steps too far over the boundaries. For example, Offred only kissed Nick, but had the chance to have sex with him if she was braver.In chapter 23, Offred begins to break bigger rules, one of these being the fact that she sneaks out to meet the Commander privately. They play scrabble, which is breaking another rule, as any form of reading is forbidden for women.
Later that same night, the Commander asks Offred for a kiss, and he says to Offred that he would like her to kiss him “as if you meant it.” Offred again shows her heroics by kissing the Commander, and meeting him privately, and all of these things could have resulted in a very severe punishment, has she been caught. This shows Offred’s bravery to a certain extent.Later in the story, the Commander gives Offred a skimpy outfit to wear, and takes her out to the Jezebel’s, which is a nightclub and brothel.
This is a big risk for Offred as she could have been caught leaving the house, and again shows Offred’s luck that she hasn’t been caught for all the rules she has constantly broken.On the other hand, the rules that Offred has broken wasn’t anything heroic in the fact that she didn’t change society in Gilead. In a story, the hero would normally be known for trying to escape from difficult situations, not just putting up with them. Although Offred showed a strong will by not giving up, she did not genuinely attempt to escape or change what was going on in the house.
When the doctor offers to make Offred pregnant so that she can escape from that life, Offred refuses as she feared for her life if she was caught. A heroine would normally be willing to do whatever it takes in order to escape from this life, but instead Offred shows her fear for being caught. Another opportunity for Offred to be a heroine would have been to sleep with the man she wanted most, and she had the opportunity to have sex with Nick when they met in the kitchen. In both instances Offred feared being caught, which shows that she lacked the determination and bravery to carry out these deeds.
In the final chapter of the story, Offred is taken away by the eyes but it remains ambiguous whether she was caught by the eyes or rescued by “May Day”. This organisation was first mentioned in Chapter 8, when Offred remembers that May Day came from the French “m’aidez” which translates to “help me”. This secret organisation was kept between those who opposed the current society, and this has clear links to other underground societies such as the Nazis or the French Resistance. The French resistance represents the May Day organisation, which is an underground organisation that was campaigning for help and to overthrow the rulers, while the Nazis are seen as the Eyes or the secret police.
Another example of this could be the Russian Revolution, and the purges carried out by the secret police.It is evident that Offred is a heroine to a small extent, as it is clear that she act in a conventional heroine style. Instead of being brave and daring, she backs out of many rule breaking acts, such as having sex with Nick. Also the fact that Offred never once tried to escape from the house, instead letting Nick arrange a safe passage out of the house for her, shows that she isn’t the real hero of the story.
If Offred did escape in the end, it would be mainly thanks to the May Day organisation and Nick. However it is true that Offred kept her wits about her, and mentally and emotionally survived a heroic struggle.
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