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Female Oppression In The Novel The Handmaid’s Tale

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The oppression of women will continuously be the elephant in the room, something men will shove under the rug in hopes that people will ignore the maltreatment. The struggles women face daily are overlooked in society, and especially in the media, thus their ultimate struggles seem infinite. In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margeret Atwood, female characters struggle against power. As a result of the male dominating society of Gilead, the objectification of women and their lack of freedom, characters face their ultimate hardships in an attempt to gain a sense of self.

The start of this dystopian society called the Republic of Gilead begun by men. This patriarchal government banishes all rights of women depending on their social class. Due to the male dominating society of Gilead, the men are responsible for the outcomes of this new experiment they label a government. The main character in this novel, Offred undergoes extreme injustice because of her coming from a lower class and being a female. Males dominate women by making rules and controlling the things they do. An example of this is the authorities in Gilead society is governed by males which are showcased through “The Eyes”, also known as the secret police that is in charge of reporting crimes. The phrase that many Handmaids continue to use is “under his eye” which is a reminder that they are constantly being watched by men and that men have total control when it comes to punishment for their actions. Another example is the hardship Offred faces before becoming a Handmaid. The beginning of this new society is when Offred is kicked out of her job and her bank account is wiped. This marks the beginning of the revolution and when Gilead starts to take over. This is shown when she said “They’ve frozen them, she said. Mine too. The collective’s too. Any account with an F on it instead of an M. All they needed to do is push a few buttons. We’re cut off” (Atwood 206) This demonstrates the stereotypical gender roles throughout the novel and that the dominance of men is clearly expressed. The men in Gilead take everything from Offred, her job, her money and most importantly her pride. They make her feel like she is nothing compared to them, and they show how little power she has in this misogynistic world that they have created.

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Another instance where women in the novel, the Handmaids, struggle to gain a sense of self is for the sole purpose that they were objectified as the property of men. The men have total control over women and they have no say in anything. They belong to their Commanders, even their name, the thing that identifies anyone, represents them. This was demonstrated when Ofglen, Offred’s partner is absent and an unknown individual comes to take her place. Offred is concerned because she was unaware of the whereabouts of her friend. The new Ofglen explains “I am Ofglen,” the woman says. Word perfect. And of course, she is, the new one, and Ofglen, wherever she is. Is no longer Ofglen. I never did know her real name. That is how you can get lost in a sea of names. It wouldn’t be easy to find her, now.” (326) This quote demonstrates how the Handmaids do not own their name, it belongs to their Commander and every time their “house” changes, so do their name. The men take full control over the women in the household and show pride in treating them as their personal property.

In addition, the women in Gilead face lack of freedom in an attempt to gain a sense of self. The women are oppressed in regards to their body, especially the Handmaids. They are constantly sexually abused and raped by their Commanders. The Handmaid’s sole purpose is to become pregnant by their Commander, which they have no say in doing. An initial example of this is shown when Offred, sees another Handmaid, Ofwarren, who is very far along with her pregnancy, “She’s a magic presence to us, an object of envy and desire, we covet her. She’s a flag on a hilltop, showing us what can still be done: we too can be saved” (26) This quote demonstrates how the men in Gilead have programmed into the Handmaids mind that the only way they can be saved is by becoming pregnant shows the unjust lack of freedom that these women have to face. The sad reality is that there is no getting out of being a Handmaid, and being pregnant against your will is the only thing these young women want. The objectification of women ruins their self-confidence, their self-worth and shatters any hope of trusting men in the future. The oppression these sterile women face by merely being child-bearers limits their ability to rise to their true potential.

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Female Oppression In The Novel The Handmaid’s Tale. (2021, September 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from
“Female Oppression In The Novel The Handmaid’s Tale.” Edubirdie, 09 Sept. 2021,
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