Welcome to my blog on “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I will be discussing my thoughts and opinions about the book. I am super excited to read this book to understand why women are treated the way they are.
The author Margaret Atwood began writing “The Handmaids Tale” in 1984 using the narrator, Offred which is never said during the book, to show the “unbelievable, the fantastic, as do those told by those who have survived earth-shattering events.” The first thing that pops out to me in the bible verse “Genesis 30: 1-3.” This bible verse says that Rachel was not fertile to have children with Jacob. Since she could not have a child, Rachel allowed Jacob to have a child with a servant, “so that even I may have children through her” Genesis 30:3. The setting of “The Handmaid’s Tale” begins in The Republic of Gilead which used to be a part of the United States. In the introduction it says the narrator is being settled here at a Women’s Center.
In the beginning, I really was not sure what was going on and why certain events were happening. I did not understand why these women had to live in these harsh of conditions. At first, I thought that this was an army training or could be a jail. If you put yourself in the narrator’s place, it makes you realize that you are lucky to live the life you live. I can only imagine the pain that the women go through every day having literally no life. It is easy now to imagin people that live tough lives, but you will never understand how hard their life truly is unless you get put into the same situation. Aunt Lydia says, “Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted.” As I read this quote, I cannot even imagine the life these women live having to fight every day. This situation they go through is something that absolutely no human being should ever have to be put through. In the first chapter “The Handmaid’s Tale” Atwood starts off by telling the narrator’s life through flashbacks of her life when she lived in the gym and lived under harsh rules. The narrator, Offred, only given in the introduction tells about how the women are treated in this correctional center.
“Cora replies that Offred works for all the women, and that if she (Cora) were younger and had not gotten her tubes tied, she could have been in Offred’s situation.”
As I first started reading this book, I was so confused about what was going on. I looked over this quote over and over again to try to figure out what this quote meant. The more I looked over it I realized that getting her tubes tied means she cannot have children anymore. So, this group “Handmaids” are on these people’s property to have children, since the owners could not have any children. The more I did research I found out that “Handmaid” means “A female servant” which tells that these women are servants to the property owners to have children for them to take. This describes why Atwood used the bible verse that she did to tell the audience what these women are going through. These women are “being brainwashed in a sort of Red Guard re-educational facility known as the Red Center.”
In the first chapter “The Handmaid’s Tale” Atwood starts off by telling the narrator’s life through flashbacks of her life when she lived in the gym and lived under harsh rules with other women. The narrator, Offred, only given in the introduction tells about how the women are treated in this correctional center. Atwood uses diction to tell every detail about how women were treated during this time period. At first, I did not know why these women were treated the way they were. In the beginning, I believed that they could have been in an army training or jail because these women faced rules that no one should have to face. The book starts off by telling all the bazaar things these women have to follow like only getting to go outside twice a day for their daily walk and they are being watched by “armed guards” also known as “Angels” throughout their day. At the end of the chapter, Offred’s character beings to make a turn. She begins to tell the girls that “we still had our bodies” so “something can be exchanged, we thought, some deal, some tradeoff.” I guess Offred was using anything she could to get out of the facility, so she had to use what she could.
When the second chapter beings, the story changed to present tense now beginning to talk about Offred’s everyday life. The narrator starts off by describing her new living conditions that I guess you could say was better than sleeping in a gym. Atwood starts to tell about the different groups that belong to the house. The “Handmaids,” which the narrator belongs in that “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the sleeves are full.” Atwood’s imagery shows how these women are not supposed to be seen for who they are. These women are always covered from head to toe so no one can see them and their body figures. The more research I did about what a “Handmaid” is I now understood why these women were used for at this facility. A “Handmaid” is a “female servant,” so I believe that these women were servant to the property owner because maybe they could not have children. The handmaids could not have any relationship with anyone in the facility nor were the allowed to talk to each other. For an exchange, the women receive coins that will buy them “twelve eggs, cheese, and a steak.”
At the beginning of chapter 3, Atwood describes the Commander’s wife by talking about her hobbies. The commander’s wife enjoys gardening and knits for the “Angels.” Before they began talking, the Commander’s wife smokes in front of Offred who is not allowed to have cigarettes, coffee, or alcohol, and rumor goes around that she drinks behind everyone’s back. In this time, I think the Commander’s wife is being a hypocrite because it is not fair to be smoking in front of someone who is banned from it. The Commander’s wife who I later find out is Serena Joy who was on a Gospel TV show seems to be a likable person at first but that does not last long. Serena tells Offred to stay out of her way as if this was business and to leave her husband alone. When I read this part, I was unsure if this was part of the foreshadowing events that occurred in the first chapter when the “Handmaids” were using their body to make deals. I was wondering maybe the “Handmaids” were going to use their bodies to get with the Commander to get out of the situation they are in? This is when I got excited to keep reading to see what is fixing to occur in later chapters.
Chapter 4 begins when Offred leaves the house to go shopping, when she is alarmed by a “Guardian of Faith” who winks at her but they are supposed to not make any contact with the “handmaids.” So, Offred believes this “Guardian of Faith” is a spy to catch her having integrations with males. Offred walks with another woman in the same group because they always have to walk in pairs, and they hear that a war is occurring during this time. The guardians are men to young or too old to join the army so they protect the house, and they accidently shot a Martha who was just walking around. Another foreshadowing event occurs when Offred begins to flirt with these “sex starved guards.” Maybe this is another possibility that she is going to use her body to try to make an escape. During this time, masturbation is a sin. Offred might be using these boys because she knows how desperate they are. She teases these men, “I more my hips a little feeling the full red skirt sway around me.” Offred says she “enjoys the power” so even though what she is doing is wrong, I get how she feels like she is low. So, teasing the boys make her feel like she is above them for once.
As the girls wait in line, they had to be careful because at this time women were not protected. During this time women could not have anything to do with men so they could not answer to strangers, if someone whistles do not turn around, and do not go into the laundry mat at night by yourself. I could not imagine living by these strict rules because now days girls have boyfriends when they are young. These women are fascinated when they see the tourist wearing clothes that you can see skin because they have to wear clothes that cover their whole body. At first, they judge these women thinking they are undressed, but then they think back on how they used to dress like that and all the freedom they used to have. The tourist asks the women “if they are happy” and Offred says “yes.” I think she said yes because the so call tourist could be an eye making sure the women are not doing anything that they are not supposed to be doing.
This chapter is one of the most horrific things I have ever read. The women decide to take the long way home when they see six bodies hung on the wall. The six men were all doctors that performed abortions which were legal at the time but now they are being punished for them. I think this is gruesome to punish these doctors the way they did because when they did the operation it was legal. “Ordinary, said Aunt Linda, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.” This quote shows how horrible these women were treated. No person should ever have to see something that disturbing in their lifetime. There is no reason for seeing people get executed to become “ordinary” to anyone. I bet that these women are terrified because who knows if they could be next.
This chapter answers all the questions about what I have been wondering about. Offred remembers her freedom days but not all of them because she believes that the authorities brained washed her. Atwood describes two groups as feminists and religious conservatives which both believe in women’s sexuality. I believe that Atwood is showing the audience how these authorities attempted to control the women. They controlled them only allowing them to do certain stuff with guards around and taking away their babies. Once Offred got her child taken away, they only allowed her to see a picture of her child in another women’s arms. I think this is one of the hardest things she could have gone through knowing that some strange women raising her child and loving it. Offred is not allowed to tell her story because they are not allowed to write anything.
It is finally getting warmer so the girls “get out our sundresses and our sandals.” On the way home from shopping, the girls see three new bodies handing from the wall. These men were executed for “Gender Treachery” which also is known as anyone who “engages in homosexual relationships.” While they were walking home from the shopping trip, they see a funeral occurring involving “Econowife.” “Econowife” are the wives of the lowest ranked men which is sad to think about because they cannot choose who they want to marry. Luckily in our time period, we are allowed to choose who we want to marry. One of the “Econowife” carries a small black jar, and from the size of the jar means that the baby passed before birth. The “intrauterine fetal death” which means a baby who passes away before birth, was a couple months too young to tell if it was an “Unbaby.” An “Unbaby” is a baby that “physically disformed or with birth defects.” Ofglen says to Offred, “Under his eyes” which means during this time that God is always watching. Finishing their walk back to the house, Nick ask their walk was, but Offred just nods and keeps moving because they are not allowed to speak to each other. Aunt Linda says, “God made them that way but He did not make you that way” which is saying that he made women stronger than man when it comes down to setting boundaries. They passed the Commader’s wife, Pam, but is also known as Serena Joy who used to give speeches about the “sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home.” She gives these speeches, but she goes out and works by giving speeches and does not stay at home. Someone tried to blow Pam up, and Atwood suggests this idea to show that women do want to have freedom, but they have to act like they are happy were they are. The girls are told to look in their hands to see the future, but they see nothing giving them no hope of any positive insite that anything good is going to happen. Atwood is interpreting that the women have no hope that their life is going to get any better. Back at the house, Offred sees the commander “looking into the room” which he is not supposed to be doing that could mean something is happening, but Offred does not know what is happening
“It smells of me, in former times, when I was a mother”
This quote is another statement makes me so upset. I could not imagine the pain the mothers go through being their child’s first home for nine months, then get them taken away from them. I hopefully will never have to understand the pain these women go through when they have to live on without their child. I know that I want to have the privilege of raising a child, and most likely these women want the same thing. I would want to see my child’s first step, hear its first word, and watch he or she grow up to be a strong young daughter and son. After reading the first section, I know now that if I ever get the opportunity to raise a child that I am going to be more than grateful because he or she could have gotten taken away from me like these women. I could not imagine not being able to watch my kids do stuff they love like sports or their hobbies. I could not imagine how much pain these women suffer everyday not knowing how their child is doing and missing them grow up.
In the beginning of this chapter, Offred begins to look around her room which brings back flashbacks to when she had all the freedom she could ever ask for. Brought back memories when she could have contact with men like Luke, who is the man she was in love with at the time. While she was examining the room, she found the phrase “Notile te Bastardes Carborundorum.” This phrase is a Latin term meaning “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Atwood uses this phrase as a joke so the women would not get in trouble for writing it but also showing how the narrator does not need to give up hope and not let any person bring her down. This could be a cry out to women to never give up and keep fighting against the authorites. The voice of Aunt Linda is making Offred think that everything is okay when it is not okay at all.