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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Essay

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has many characters who refused to compromise their principles even in the face of punishment or death. In the book, we are given many examples of people who went against their principles, these characters came to show how difficult it was uncompromisable in one’s beliefs. In the face of insurmountable odds, Offred went against the Republic of Gilead in order to uphold her principles.

Gilead is a distinctive dystopia facing issues like disease sterility and ecological problems. The founders of Gilead established a hierarchy based on bearing children. Offred is presented as a normal woman before Gilead, but because of the rise of Gilead, she lost everything. Offred is a handmaid she holds true to principles, she seeks out companionship with many people in order to not lose herself. Offred’s search for companionship in Gilead went against the established regime, she risked her life to gain what Gilead was rigorously suppressing the freedom of speech and the freedom to control her body. At the beginning of the story, as she and the other woman were being indoctrinated to become handmaids, she and the other woman whisper, lipread, and hold hands in the darkness. After one handmaid goes against the Aunts, she gets punished. “What did they do to her? We whispered, from bed to bed” (Atwood, 72). Offred and the other handmaids experience what happens if they go against the Aunts, although they still whisper and speak to each other. Offred even went to go see her friend Moira in secret to talk to speak to each other. “I put my mouth to the wooden hole. Moira? I whisper” (Atwood, 73). By doing this Offred gains the companionship of Moira and feels relief, as well as feeling “ridiculously happy” (Atwood, 73). Offred faces Gilead as she tries to survive with a sense of individuality. To suppress individuality and maintain the hierarchy, Gilead re-writes history and controls the media and the people. Offred tries to retain a sense of self throughout the book, when she recalls memories of her former life, she remembers the companionship she had, but as her memories of her past life fade, Offred begins to look outside toward others. She finds little as the structure of society impedes her from doing so. Offred has no modes of resistance against Gilead, only that of self-retainment. Because of the lack of fulfilling companionship, Offred takes what little companionship she can get with the Commander, encouraging her to break the rules with him as well as having relations with Nick. As Offred seeks out verbal and tactile companionship, the Commander invites her to play Scrabble. “This is freedom, an eyeblink of it” (Atwood, 139). Offred saw herself as being treated generously by the Commander for providing her with the companionship she so very much desired. Offred is attracted to Nick, while in Nick’s room Offred talks to Nick about herself, and because of her need for companionship, she risks sexual relations with him. To Offred Nick provides the ideal form of companionship she desired, she says she would disregard the rules for him stating: “I became reckless, I took stupid chances” and “For this one I’d wear pink feathers, purple stars, if that were what he wanted; or anything else, even the tail of a rabbit” (Atwood, 268, 269). Offred’s desire for companionship exceeds her desire for freedom to the extent that she would give up her freedom to stay with Nick. “The fact is that I no longer want to leave, escape, cross the border to freedom. I want to be here, with Nick, where I can get at him” (Atwood, 271). Offred did not compromise her principles, this desire for Nick helped her retain a sense of self. In the end, Nick decided to forcefully make her leave in order to protect her, and as a result, Offred didn’t stray from her principles.

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Offred’s actions and decisions to uphold her beliefs and continue to seek companionship were tragic and misguided. While Offred does stick to principles with her meeting with Moira, the Commander, and Nick, these interactions follow the system put into place by Gilead. This system marginalizes the women of Gilead characterizing them as objects who are to be used. Moira escaped the handmaids’ indoctrination site, she was later found by Offred at Jezebel’s. Moira went against her beliefs and became a toy for men. To Offred, Moira was a hero someone with courage, but when they met again at Jezebel’s, she lacked that courage that she once had. “I don’t want her to be like me…gallantry…heroism… Something I lack” (Atwood, 249). Offred’s companionship with Moira gave her hope, but after meeting her again, she realized that they both now lacked courage. Offred’s companionship with the Commander was always about the Commander’s obsession with power and control. The Commander always wanted to use Offred by offering her little generosity the Commander required and obtained the public display of sex on the ‘altar’ as Moira called it. Moira describes the Commander’s actions as “just another crummy power trip” (Atwood, 243). Offred just seeks companionship but ends up being used. Nick becomes a figure that causes Offred to comply with society. Although the Connection between them is more intimate, these feelings, be they sexual, desire, or love, diminish Offred’s drive toward freedom. As the idea of escaping becomes possible, Offred pushes that possibility aside in favor of her newly discovered feelings toward Nick.

In the face of impossible odds, Offred went against the Republic of Gilead in order to uphold her principles. The many actions Offred partook in illustrated just how important companionship was to her. Offred’s unrelenting drive for companionship was, in the end, tragic and misguided.

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