Offred lived a normal, American life when all of the sudden, her family was taken from her so she could go have somebody else’s baby. The Handmaid’s Tale is about a woman’s tale of her life, her story, and her struggles in a new society and how she got there. This story by Margaret Atwood tells the life of Offred, a handmaid for a wealthy couple and her daily struggles trying to adapt to her new world. Offred tells how she makes deals with her Commander and his Wife with hope of getting out and how that changes her life.
The progress in this book is not as one would probably describe progress, but it is as follows: the government and society had to make major changes in order to bring about the new system and laws, Gilead is thinking of and executing ways to raise the birthrate in their country, and handmaids and women in general are protected at all costs. The government had to make drastic changes so that they could make this seemingly perfect government and world. Everyone in the times before the Republic of Gilead, people used paper money and had the right to their own freedoms, now, society has changed.
They shot the president, machine-gunned the Congress… The entire government, gone like that,” (Atwood 174). To make the changes for fertile women to bear children for other couples, there had to be subjection of the majority of the population, so the entire government had to be wiped out and replaced with a totalitarian government with all new laws and customs. This new country was so limited that it was like a giant gallery.
The new government’s ways were so ridiculous and astounding that foreigners came just to see how it all worked and to get a look at the handmaids. A group of people is coming toward us. They’re tourists, from Japan, (Atwood 27). This is another example of how much society has changed. It is like going to see a display. From the outside everything looks so interesting and intriguing but on the inside, it’s a lot different and not at all happy like the outside image is. The Republic of Gilead thinks of every way possible to raise the birth rates, therefore, bringing handmaids into the mix to bear children for wealthy couples, leaving them empty and demoralized on the inside.
The government used quotes and verses from the Bible to tell the handmaids that what is happening to them is “okay” and that their main purpose is to bear children for somebody else. “‘She shall be saved by childbearing’”, (Atwood 220). One way Gilead has taught society that women are solely meant to have kids is by taking current handmaids and young girls becoming handmaids to a ceremony and reading a passage from the Bible. The young girls will believe that bearing children is their main purpose in this life.
The Wives have to be okay with their husbands being with another woman because they want children, and they are also willing to take illegal risks to get what they want. “Another man… I was thinking Nick,” (Atwood 205). Serena Joy, the Wife in charge of Offred, is telling Offred to sleep with another man so she can give Serena Joy a baby. Not only is the government trying to raise the birth rates, but the Wives are very much in favor of doing anything to get a child. Despite all of the new, inventive ideas to raise the birth rates, there is still no guarantee that the baby will survive. “The chances are one in four,” (Atwood 112).
For example, the handmaid Ofwarren (Janine), got pregnant once but had a miscarriage eight months in, and the next time she got pregnant, she gave birth to a seemingly healthy baby girl, but not long after the baby was born, she died. There really isn’t a surety that a baby will live past infancy or even long enough to be born. The babies are very valuable, but so are the handmaids. The fertile women, the handmaids, are very well protected. There are guards all about the town and every precaution was taken so the handmaids wouldn’t die or be attacked. “Women were not protected then,” (Atwood 24).
In the time before the Republic of Gilead was founded, women were free to do practically anything they wanted, but with that, there was freedom for everyone else. Women could be raped or killed, and even commit suicide. “They’ve removed anything you could tie a rope to,” (Atwood 7). Now, there is no chance for any of that. They are an important part of society. The progress in this novel is ironic. The women are vital, but this is obviously a man’s world. The Republic of Gilead subjects women to be sexual instruments and maids and slaves, but at the same time, they are the most important part.
Women keep this society alive. Handmaids are used to have babies for the wealthy but they don’t want to be somebody’s sex slave. They don’t have any freedoms. Progress in this book is a very unique kind of progress. Examples of progress are that the society changed in all ways so that a new government and rule could take place to put the new laws in order, the country is thinking of all the ways the birth rate can be raised, and women are protected at all costs. The progress is backtracking, causing the progress in the novel to be quite ironic.