In ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ the major characters are all women. Women that don’t have everyday lives but somehow you can still relate to them. These women have an amazing strength and seem to cope with what society throws at them.
However some of the characters have stronger roles than others, but each character has their own unique strength in the society they live in.This brings me to my first character Offred, she is the main character of the novel. All events are seen through her eyes. There is a contrast between her outward conformity and her inner determination to resist brainwashing of Gilead by her thoughts and memories of a different past society:”Its lack of love we die from” (Chapter 20 page 113)Offred seem to respond to events rather than encouraging them unlike her friend Moira.
In many ways Offred would like to be more out of control like Moira but never finds the strength to be openly rebellious but would like to be. Offred yearns for communication with others and would like to be able to form close relationships. Her only freedom is the relationship she forms with The Commander. Her ‘arrangement’ with The Commander is in the form of games of Scrabble.
It is here that Offred is her liveliest and most feminine.Offred is seem as a “two-legged womb”, she is valued only for her potential as a surrogate mother for Serena Joy. Offred longs to be a mother again but not by the way of a Handmaid.Throughout the novel she is denied her individual rights and is trapped in Gilead.
This to her seems like a life sentence. She is isolated, afraid, lonely, bored and is not sure of what the future has in store for her.She has a deep secret she refuses to forget her past and still retains a sense of individuality and psychological freedom. This is seen in the novel as Offred’s greatest resource, her double visions.
Flashbacks enable her to survive the present by reconstructing the past of happier times and memories.Offred forms a relationship with Nick (The Commanders Driver). This love seems to be a mixture of desire and rebellion and is the result of Serena Joy pushing them together so that she has a higher chance for a baby. Offred feels there is hope and a future with Nick.
Though she is forbidden to use her own name she keeps this secret like a buried treasure of her own identity:”I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up one day” (chapter 14).Nick is the only one that knows the real identity of Offred’s character. She gives her real name to him as a token of her love for him. Nick in turn uses it to gain her trust.
Offred’s Mother is a staunch, active feminist. Disappointed in Offred’s negative attitudes of the freedom won by the feminist movement, yet she still loves her. Offred remembers these things her mother has said to her:”A man is just a women’s strategy for making other women,””History will absolve me,”In the novel Moira is the rebel, the natural risk taker and it seem that Offred really admires her courage and her open opposition against the system of Gilead. Beaten by the system, Moiria still has the strength to keep on going when many would have given up a long time ago.
When Moira was caught trying to escape Gilead, her punishment was either go to the Colonies or work at Jezebels. Moira chooses Jezebels, a secret whorehouse for the people in command in Gilead. Jezebels is the only place where sex and drink at a club goes on. She is dressed in a sexual costume for the benefit of the customers.
Moira is a Gay Activist and this is an ironic situation for her to be in and finally seems to be defeated by the system. Offred’s last meeting with Moria was at Jezebels. Moira comments on this situation:”I guess they thought it was me” (Chapter 38)Moira provides a role model / heroine to Offred and the other Handmaid’s:”Moria was our fantasy. We hugged her to us, she was with us in a secret, giggle she was lava beneath the crust of daily life,”But is also seen as “frightening”.
Gileadean Authorities see her as a ‘loose women’ but in fact she is a women of the 1990’s with a strong character. To me she is like Offred’s mother, they are both staunch activists in women rights.Serena Joy is The Commander’s wife who is a childless woman, desperate to have a baby. She was a child singer on a Gospel television show and later a media personality.
She loves having power over Offred or so she thinks. She is unsympathetic towards her. She has very little power in her present life and that is why she loves the power she has over Offred.She is a victim of the regime of Gilead and you can see this clearly when she is suffering through the ceremonies that her, Offred and the Commander perform.
She finds this to be a violation of her marriage.Serena is hypocritical. She has worked for a return to fundamental Christian values and is now imprisoned by them. She clearly uses the black market and manipulates the affair between Offred and Nick by blackmailing Offred.
Ofglen is Offred’s shopping partner. She seems as though she is a very nervous person. Ofglen is a strong character, a part of the hidden opposition to Gilead. Unselfishly she is working for the good of all.
She is a character who is very trustworthy this is shown when she would rather commit suicide than give names of her conspirators under torture.Margaret Atwood is critical of an extreme feminist position. She takes these five very individual characters and gives them all a quality that you can somehow relate to. The personalities that are given to the characters through the eyes of Offred show how they cope in such a society and how they carry on with their everyday lives.