Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel that provides an account of a fictitious authoritarian government of Gilead that came to power after overtaking the U.S. government. The novel explores the theme of misogyny to women subjugation while using flashback to provide details of what life was before and after the revolution. Understanding the proceedings in the novel requires identification of these events to comprehend the position of the narrator.
Life Before and During Gilead
Offred, the novel’s protagonist and a handmaid to Frederick Waterford, provide a scintillating explanation of the ordeals that occur before and after Gilead. At one moment she describes a garden at the rear lawn of the house, which is filled with beautiful flower and grass. The garden belongs to Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife. The narrator explains that women during Gilead owned flower gardens as their domain to care and order (Atwood 010). Offred explains that before the revolution, she also had a garden of her own and used to tend it herself (Atwood 010). This means that even before the new regime came, women used to have such flower gardens behind their houses as a place for relaxation and passing time.
The first time she entered the Commander’s wife, she saw her smoking cigarettes even though they were forbidden at the time (Atwood, 013). The narrator insinuates that the Commander’s wife might have gotten the cigarettes from the black market. The black market was a means by which people could get commodities that were banned or prohibited. Offred believes that the black market exists and becomes hopeful, knowing that she could get whatever she needs as long as the black market exists (Atwood, 013). It seems like the illegal business did not end with the coming of the Gilead government, which seems to restrict many things that people, especially women, did.
There are certain aspects of the society that the narrator notices that still remained the same even after the revolution. She notices Nick’s car, a sleek and expensive Whirlwind model, which the driver controls lovingly as typical to men before and during the time of Gilead (Atwood 017). She notices Nick has a cigarette and becomes aware that the black market was active even during Gilead as before. The narrator sees the streets are the same, and the sidewalks are also cemented as happened before the revolution (Atwood 027). Though there have been changes in how men treat women, there is still freedom for women, only this time they are being provided freedom from being harassed by men (Atwood 028).
Another aspect of the society that has not changed since the revolution is how the women behaved. The narrator states that during the days of anarchy they use to be ignorant, dressing up the way they like and gossiping other people as much as they like (Atwood 063). She used to get drunk and a smoke cigarette when in college, which she narrates was a life of ignorance (Atwood 064). However, ignorance still exists and women live the way they want, only that these days they have to strive to ignore each other. Ignorance still exists only that it has changed its approach.
In the novel, the narrator states that before the revolution they used to read stories in the newspapers about bodies of men and women found dead in the forest or left on ditches (Atwood 064). These people were bludgeoned to death by other men and women who they did not know. However, during the revolution, the death of men and women were still reported. These, however, were perceived rebels killed by the authorities for committing treason, performing abortions or defiling women (Atwood 038).
The care accorded to women during the time of Gilead has remained the same, except that there are some restrictions. Offred states that once in a month she has to go to see a doctor for a medical check-up. The check-up included such things as cancer smear, urine, blood test, and hormones among other tests (Atwood 067). Women used to receive these tests before but it became mandatory during Gilead. The women take these tests to check whether one is pregnant, which is their obligation as they are supposed to bear children for their masters (Atwood 069). Getting pregnant is a dream for most of the handmaids as their masters are old and need children since they do not have any. Getting pregnant is freedom.
The narrator provides the changes in the society after the revolution, where most of the institution s and cultures that were perceived as creating immorality or controversial were removed. For instance, colleges, universities and even churches were closed down as they did not represent the spirit of the revolution (Atwood 039). The revolution has not, however, killed religion as we see the family of the Commander still maintaining religious activities at home (Atwood 107). This may mean other families that were religiously performed the same thing, even though it was forbidden.
The Novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood provides an interesting account of a maid in a fictitious time after the toppling of the U.S. government. The author details how an authoritarian government removed religious freedom and robbed women freedom of movement and expression. There are several flashbacks that the author uses to show a reflection of what life was before the revolution and currently. These themes show that although the revolution brought a lot of change, there are still a lot of cultural elements that are preserved such as religion, the love of cars by men, ignorance by women and entertainment among others.
Atwood, Margaret. The handma