Updated September 10, 2022

The Handmaid’s Tale as Dystopian Novel

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The Handmaid’s Tale as Dystopian Novel essay
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As the species with the highest intelligence on earth, there is hardly any reason why we compare human’s life to animals’, especially those of women’s, who gave birth to all. However, in the story of a dystopia, the Handmaid’s Tale, even though the handmaids are valued greatly, they are still frequently linked to containers, utensils and even animals. The comparison appears not only in the way people regard the Handmaid’s, but also their self-identity. The handmaids are gathered, fed, and they don’t need to think or worry about anything, just like any livestock. The use of such a description of women allows the audience to have a better understanding of the Handmaid’s humdrum life in such dystopia and how they regard themselves.

As a Handmaid, there are not many things they need to do or care about. Their main missions are to have a healthy body and born a healthy baby. Besides some daily routine like washing, brushing and eating, Handmaids’ life is monotonous. Offred says, ‘I wait, washed, brushed, fed, like a prize pig. Sometime in the eighties, they invented pig balls, for pigs who were being fattened in pens … The pig marketers said this improved their muscle tone, the pigs were curious, they liked to have something to think about” (69).

The phrase ‘prize pig’ is a perfect metaphor for Offred’s current occasion. She is highly valued by society. However, it’s not for her any achievement but only fertility, just like a piece of nice pork. She says, ‘The pigs were curious.’ The pig marketers care about their feelings so that they invented pig balls which even improve their health condition. Nevertheless, Handmaid’s should have been concerned more, whereas they are not. One thing worth mentioning is that as a Handmaid, Offred compares herself to pigs and it comes out that pigs even have a more ‘interesting’ life than she does -‘they liked to have something to think about’ and they are satisfied, notwithstanding, the Handmaids are not. All the Handmaid’s sorrows and happiness are strongly related to fertility. Thus their common lives are even more boring than the pigs’.

Besides pigs, Offred made another excellent metaphor later in the book, of the society in The Republic of Gilead: “And the one on the pigeons, trained to peck a button that made a grain of corn appear. Three groups of them: the first got one grain per peck, the second one grain every other peck, the third was random. When the man in charge cut off the grain, the first group gave up quite soon, the second group a little later.

The third group never gave up. They’d peck themselves to death, rather than quit. Who knew what worked(70)?” The first two kinds of pigeons are like the guards and all the other workers in the story — being fed regularly and have no resistant to their assigned routine whereas the third group is similar to the Handmaids. By placing this metaphor here in the book, Atwood implies that the success of giving birth are uncertain, baby defects are common.

It is like the third bottom; they won’t know whether it will bring about goodness or suffering. Janine in the story is an example of the pigeon that cannot have her corn out, whereas others have the corn to live, the results vary. Another understand to the quote can be that, since the handmaids are the only group of people, can have access to the highest authority – the Commanders – they have that chance to get rid of their assigned fate. They have more ways to save themselves out, even though they don’t work, but “They’d peck themselves to death, rather than quit.”

Handmaids’ sometimes can have secrets talks with going for a walk together, which is their only freedom. As Offred described “We don’t’ bother much with the formalities anymore when we greet each other; we smile and move off, in tandem, traveling smoothly along our daily track. Now and again we vary the route; there’s nothing against it, as long as we stay within the barriers. A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze(165)”. She compares rats to themselves. They have the freedom to walk around in the maze.

However, they are never going to get out of it. It’s not only them, but that is also how the whole society of The Republic of Gilead operates – everyone is strictly under the Commander’s control, and all they can do is obey and persuade others to obey. The Commanders won’t care what their rats think or plan to do since there is such a maze manipulating everyone and hindering them from leaving. By the end of the book, Offred’s will of escaping seems to be lessened: “The fact is that I no longer want to leave, escape, cross the border to freedom(270).”

Atwood portrays the characters and the society so realistic that people may even doubt if such dystopia ever exists. One of the things makes it so successful is her extraordinary use of metaphors. From the three examples of an animal, all the details of the Handmaid’s life seem so vivid that drag the readers deep into the Tale of them.

Work Cited

  1. “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, Anchor Books, 2017, pp. 69, 70, 165, 270.

The Handmaid’s Tale as Dystopian Novel essay

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How is offred a dystopian protagonist?
A Dystopian Society Offred is a dynamic character that develops from a quiet and reserved handmaid into the rebellious protagonist as the story progresses . Atwood uses this character change to demonstrate how curiosity can lead one to push the limits of society and the boundaries of knowledge.
Is The Handmaid's Tale utopian or dystopian?
Atwood's ~ Handmaid's Tale. itself an example of dystopian fiction focusing on physical and spiritual oppression, media manipulation, and the control of human thought as necessary governing mechanisms of society, has often been compared to Orwell's 1984.
What is considered dystopian novel?
Dystopias are societies in cataclysmic decline, with characters who battle environmental ruin, technological control, and government oppression . Dystopian novels Utopian fiction is a style of fiction that takes place in an idealized world . The author of a utopian novel sets their narrative in a world that aligns with their broader ethos and personal philosophy. What Is Utopian Literature? Examples of Utopia Fiction - 2022 - MasterClass can challenge readers to think differently about current social and political climates, and in some instances can even inspire action.
What makes Gilead dystopian?
From this theocracy, each individual's freedom is, for the most part, taken away. The Handmaid's Tale creates a dystopia by placing restrictions on the individual's freedom, using propaganda to control its citizens, and by having citizens of Gilead live in dehumanized ways .
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