In Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the dystopian world is the concept of using women to conceived, without the revival of intimacy. Offred, the narrator, tells the readers about the conditions she experiences in Gilead, the theocratic and totalitarian world which has replaced America. Everything about the novel is a direct assault to the feminine perspective, wherein common women, such as Offred, is used as conceiving vessels without the freedom to love, make relationships, and make their decisions.
In this fiction, the world has become a dark and gloomy world, and women have become a commodity. When ut into the lenses of Lois Tyson’s feminist criticism, Atwood’s novel becomes a distorted image of the real conditions suffered by women in fundamental societies. The roles of domesticity in the form of Offred, her views, and the means of conceiving children for the Commander and his wife, can all be redefined through Tyson’s literary criticism to expand the concept of antifeminist bias further and thus expand the novel’s attributes in the conditions which separate men and women.
In the field of literary criticism, Tyson asserts that the distinguishing factor between the two sexes refers to the differences of biological onstitutions, which then affects the cultural programming of feminine and masculine (88). It becomes evident that citing Atwood’s novel provides a distinct explanation of how the dystopian society uses women – not men – as the commodity. It seems as though Atwood tries to challenge the reader’s acceptance of the social constructivism implied in the novel.
Offred, together with other handmaids, where used by the elite society as conceiving vessels but they are not given the equal treatment of getting married, having their child on their terms, and being free. Offred’s life in Gilead is apparently antagonistic. She is expected to yield monthly to the Commander, having no communication, and following every kind of commands that he and Serena Joy wanted her to do. She is viewed as a commodity to perpetuate the bloodline of the Commander and to bring them, children.
In the perspective of feminist criticism, Tyson asserts that this objectification is already embedded in other literature, which is often fed to young girls. Tyson asserts that stories such as “Cinderella” and its contemporaries – wherein the literary formula is the female protagonist is a damsel in distress and has to be saved by a prince or a knight in shining rmor – conceive the objectification of women (90). In the perspective of Atwood’s Offred, she is objectified without any means of being redeemed, making herself her savior.
This is evident in the following passage: “It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge” (Atwood 63). It is important to take note that Atwood used this condition to integrate further the concept that Offred, as compared to other handmaids, have the ability to think about herself, for herself, and for her well-being. However, cowardice and the fear of eing often caught take her freedom away from her, making her give into Gilead’s rules and patriarchy while knowing that she should fight for her freedom.
The small forms of defiance which Attwood gave to her characters in the novel are examples of putting the feminist perspective within the story. For instance, the passage about her defiance in using soap, as if it is her only way of taking control, makes it an ideal identification of Offred’s persona: “I breathe in the soap smell, the disinfectant smell, and stand in the white bathroom, listening to the distant sounds of water running, toilets being flushed.
In a strange way, I feel comforted. At home. ” (Atwood 86). Another example is Offred’s relationship with Nick, which is forbidden inside Gilead but she feels that it makes her life bearable, so she continues. Her trip to Jezebel’s is also forbidden, together with Ofglen’s participation in the Mayday. These instances are shown as the ways wherein feminism comes into view, where women are given the ability to think again, to read, and to make use of simple freedoms prohibited inside Gilead.
It is also a strong symbol of anarchy against Serena Joy’s traditional values, which is rather patriarchal in its approach. Understanding that Atwood made use of the narrative to provide a distinction of life without feminism and attributing the patriarchal society as antagonistic towards women, it is evident that the novel tries the dialectic approach. It goes well with Tyson’s feminist criticism of literature, and wherein it becomes a distinct way of defining how feminism helps shape an equal and balanced society.
Atwood’s Gilead is a fundamentalist state, and women were subjected to traditional values such as being domesticated, having children, and so on. As a contrast, Moira – Offred’s independent friend – chose to be a prostitute rather than ecome a political prisoner when she got caught during the rise of Gilead’s institution. Offred meets her again in Jezebell’s, and it distinctly portrays how independent women who believe in feminism get punished for their perspectives in a fundamental world.
Offred’s flashbacks in the novel, her marriage to Luke, having a daughter, being caught on the border, and leading to her life in Gilead are all definitions of how she lost her freedom and her life within the rise of Gilead. It seems that the parallelism of the rise of Gilead led to the loss of women’s freedom, and also formulates Tyson’s feminist perspective in iterary criticism. It becomes apparent that Atwood used a weak female perspective in the form of Offred to provide an example of what can happen if the pursuance of patriarchal beliefs becomes the main embodiment of a fundamental society.
Creating the weakness shows the flaws in the patriarchal society, how it exploits women, and how it pursues skewed perceptions and roles of women in the society. The characters of Aunt Lydia and Serena Joy are symbols of how traditional values often undermine the power of women and are the supporters of the patriarchal society despite being women. The omen who enter the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center or the Red Center are brainwashed about their duties to the society: That they exist only to conceive children.
These elements are provided so that Atwood can provide a comparison of the idealism that the Mayday, Moira, Offred’s mother, and Ofglen have to pursue freedom. It is through this conception of comparison that the creation of the patriarchal society becomes more exclusive to men while objectifying women, making a complete definition of what feminism digresses. In conclusion, reading Atwood’s novel through Tyson’s feminist criticism provides a distinct way of nderstanding the concepts of feminism and literature.
Atwood’s use of weak women in comparison to feminism, as well as the patriarchal Gilead poses the strict differentiation of a world with feminist views and the world without it. Women’s objectification and exploitation in Gilead is a direct assault to the feminist perspective because it only follows patriarchal conditions and fundamentalist traditions. In this respect, Atwood provided a story which not only defines why feminism is important in the progression of the society but also a way to make the readers sensitive about gender issues, particularly to women.