Essay about Dystopia Society in the Handmaid´s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Dystopian literature is a subgenre of science fiction that examines societal and political structures. Many of these works of literature deal with government persecution and control and it is used to warn mankind about the future. The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian regime called Gilead that has toppled the US government. The story tackles the issues of oppressed women in patriarchal societies, and their attempts to obtain independence via resistance. Margaret Atwood, the best-selling author, uses dystopian literature to warn citizens about the possible government control that could take place soon. ‘The Handmaid's Tale' is a feminist novel that underlines the dangers that women face in a society that has dehumanized their status and made being a woman nearly criminal. The novel depicts a terrible world in which women cannot make their own decisions. Women are portrayed as objects for male selfish desires and gratification and are abused physically and psychologically. Gilead uses physical control in their society, and they also use other fear tactics. Therefore, they create a sense of paranoia and fear within their inhabitants, public executions, the threat of being sent somewhere and a type of military that could show up at any time.
First, The Republic Of Gilead uses salvagings, which are public executions, to show the women what could happen if they break a law. They even have the handmaids themselves finish off the offenders, by pulling ropes that hang the offender, or they stone them. If women like them commit a small crime they are to be executed by their friends and it shows the Handmaids what would happen to them if they break a law. It is not always a quick death, it could be stoning or being hanged. Thus, Gilead has the hope that if the women see this happen that they will not be turned towards doing anything to jeopardize their lives. After these executions take place they are then displayed for people to see them on a wall, a reminder of what happens when you break rules. When Offred and Ofglen go on their shopping trip for the first time they decide to go past the wall, “Offred and Ofglen “stop together as if on signal, and stand and look at the bodies. It does not matter if they look. They are supposed to look: this is what they are there for, hanging on the Wall. — They have committed atrocities, and must be made into examples” (Atwood 36,37). As Offred and Ofglen walk home they go to look at the wall. Hanging up on the wall are bodies. Men wear white coats like the ones that are worn by scientists and doctors. These doctors were ones from before who performed abortions. The guards wear a placard that has a symbol for gender treachery, which means they were caught in homosexual acts. Gilead uses these people as examples, they are killed then hung on the wall for the Handmaids and others to see, to serve as reminders, it is a form of control that instills fear and paranoia about what they do and what the consequences would be. Making it less likely for the women to try to escape because they would have to die a painful death. Second, every society has a place where people who break laws are sent. In modern society, we call that prison, but in Gilead, it is called the colonies. In the colonies, women are treated even worse not even being recognized for their status of being a woman. The most common offence of being sent to the colonies is being a gender traitor or an Unwomen; a title that was given if you failed to conceive a child. In the colonies, are forced to work until they die with little chance of being sent back. “He could fake the tests, report me for cancer, for infertility, have me shipped off to the Colonies, with the Unwomen.” (Atwood 69). While Offred is at the doctor he offers to help her with her “problem” for her to conceive. Offred worries that if she says no he could get her in trouble and have her sent to the colonies. The colonies are a place of fear and a place where you wouldn’t want to go to. It's also being used in a sense where if you don’t do what I want you to I could have you sent somewhere. It’s being used by someone to hang something over them to get what they want. If you don’t have a baby at all in Gilead you are titled an Unwoman and sent to the colonies, this makes women try harder to get pregnant. Gilead used this scary place as a way to encourage the women to try harder. And lastly, just like in modern-day society every country has some type of secret police. They watch people from afar and you would never know they were there. It does instill a small amount of fear but most people do not fear them because they have found ways around them. With all the forms of communication taken away from the handmaids, there isn't much more they can do to escape but just to make sure they do not, The Republic Of Gilead has created secret police known as “The eyes of the lord” or just “the eyes”. They drive around in black vans with eyes and wings painted on the sides of them and at any moment they could be coming for you. They can pick you up off the street at any moment. There is a greeting that is said amongst the people of Gilead when they are saying goodbye. “Under His Eye,” she says. The right farewell. “Under His Eye,” I reply, and she gives a little nod” (Atwood 49). This is one of the many new terms that were created in Gilead. This is what people say when they leave and this is how they end a conversation. Under His Eye could refer to God and how he is always watching however it refers to the secret police. It reminds the handmaids that they are always being watched and it is just another reminder of their lack of freedom, privacy and how they no longer have any control over their lives.