Handmaid tale challenge and critise contempary society Essay

Submitted By sseeto
Words: 1132
Pages: 5

"Despite being written thirty years ag, the handmaid’s tale is still a valuable and powerful text"
How successfully does Atwood's novel challenge and criticise the conditions of contemporary society?

Attwood includes many values that successfully challenge and critise the conditions of contemporary society. The most significant themes present throughout the novel are power, class and religion which help the audience to challenge and criticise the conditions of contemporary society. Each value can be linked by a certain character in The Handmaids Tale because they can successfully embody them. All three themes are intertwined which emphasises how they are related to our present society making the audience question what is important. In The Handmaids Tale the commander is the epitome of what power represents and the privileges which is relatable to our contemporary society. Attwood successfully makes Aunt Lydia a figure of religion and the importance it is in the Gilead society making it a more powerful text. Serena Joy represents social hierarchy in The Handmaid’s Tale because she has had to conform to it.

Attwood’s depiction of power effectively relates to the audiences’ modern perception of control in society. In the handmaid’s tale we see the extent of the commander’s power and the privileges it brings him and everyone in his household. During Offred and the commander’s secret meetings he presented a book to her “… he dangled it before me like fish-bait, I wanted it.” The revel of the magazine give the audience an idea of the amount of power the commander has by having something forbidden in his possession displaying the notion that more power he has the more exceptions there are for him. The use of simile highlights the desperation and want Offred has for the magazine, but it also is ironic. The irony comes from her calling the magazine “fish- bait” implying that it’s a trap that she know she is going to fall for but is unable to stop her desire. The fact that the commander owns a handmaid shows how high his social status is therefore telling the audience the extent of his power. Guardians who are not in a position of power have to be able to “perform their duty and of promotion … are allowed possible to marry… If they gain enough power and live to be old enough [they are] allotted a handmaid of their own”. This quote confirms that power is determined on an individual’s social status and accordance to their class each individual is allowed a limit of exception. Readers are able to relate this association of power back to people in our contemporary society that hold positions of authority, comparing the privileges they have to an individual who is in a much lower social class. This relationship between power and social status is easily relatable to our contemporary society when exaggerated.

In the handmaid’s tale Attwood’s portrayal of religion criticise modern society successfully making this novel a powerful text. Attwood create this character that symbolises an ideal society governed by religion. Aunt Lydia represents the start of a revolution where the society in Gilead is based on old religious beliefs. Aunty Lydia’s description on the role of woman “you must be a worthy vessel” tells the audience that the book is going backwards and starting to believe the biblical story of the purpose of woman. The use of dialogue and repetition indoctrinates women into believing this is their sole responsibility and learning to embrace this idea. However, to every negative side there is some hint of positivity in having a society solely based on religious beliefs. Each woman in their social class and each man in their position of power have a purpose in that sector. We see that even though society is segregated based on social class each individual in that division feels included “Her fault, her fault, her fault, we chant in unison” . The use of repetition and chanting in “unison” conveys a sense of belonging