Becerra 1 Gabriela M. Becerra AP English 12 Mrs.

Marie Gillete August 24, 2009 The Handmaid¶s Tale: Offred¶s Past and Present Living in what seems like an everlasting present, humanity abuses of its liberties, its ability to change circumstances at free will, and forgets that sooner or later the world as it is known may come to an end. Margaret Atwood presents this in her novel and social satire The Handmaid¶s Tale were she illustrates in a precise and innovative manner what could possibly become of society. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, former United States, whose power has fallen under a totalitarian theocracy that emerged as a response to the social, cultural and ecological degradation that had taken over. This story is narrated from the point of view of a woman called Offred. She is part of the first group of women to be taken by force as handmaids, or concubines, just for the purpose of reproduction due to the fact that they were one of the few left with viable ovaries. Offred was separated from her family and lived with an internal conflict: she was a slave of her memories. Many aspects of her past affect her new present both positively and negatively and contribute to her development throughout the chapters. Offred used to be an ordinary woman living in a ³normal´ society. She studied, worked, had a family, had a social life, and maintained an intimate life with Luke, her husband who could possibly be dead. But suddenly her reality changed and she lost all of these liberties which had never really seemed so important to her. Now she had to survive in this new society that trapped

She missed the warmth of her husband. because it would imply two people and only one is involved. no matter what. it¶s all . She wanted to survive for them. and I intend to last. ³My red skirt is hitched up to my waist. make the most of it. a wave sweeping over my head. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven¶t signed up for. like faintness.Becerra 2 her inside red dresses and white head pieces. that they will find their daughter and that he still loves her. My name is Offred now. and this is what I chose. in order to conceive and have a baby that the Commander¶s Wife would take care of. ³There¶s a lot that doesn¶t bear thinking about.´ (Atwood 94) Offred understood that it was her choice so she accepted it. ³It¶s amazing what denial can do´ (Atwood 154).´(Atwood 52). She wants everything to go back to normal. Now women could not read or write and even stores had pictures instead of names. I have them. because this is not what he¶s doing. that or death in the colonies full of radioactive material. I¶m caught in it. these attacks of the past. though no higher. I must forget about my secret name and all the ways back. the innocence of her daughter. There wasn¶t a lot of choice but there was some. Also they could not drink or smoke because now they were ³a national resource´ (Atwood 65). I do not say making love. Below it the Commander is fucking. and here is where I live. Live in the present. Initially Offred was in denial and others already contemplated suicide. She lives on with the hope of receiving a letter from her husband saying that he will get her out of there.´ (Atwood 8). But as the chapters run she feels more and more hopeless and seems to wish to forget all she once knew ³Time¶s a trap. Offred still felt she had a sense of purpose: the memory of her family. Now they were all ³two legged wombs´ (Atwood 136) since each handmaid had to maintain sexual relations with the Commander. ³I wanted to feel Luke lying beside me. Copulating too would be inaccurate. Thinking can hurt your chances. or the chief of the house. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body.

Gilead wants to silence women. but the loss of her family and her previous state of freedom makes her the character she is. There were limits. Later in the novel she also hold a sexual relationship with Nick. solid.´ (Atwood 143) Offred¶s view of her own body has changed. I have trouble remembering what I used to look like. She saw it as an escape from her cage. Instead she finds comfort in being with the Commander behind his wife¶s back. instead of actually escaping. She no longer feels at comfort in nudity and she feels like an empty body. of pleasure or a means of transportation. I stand five seven without shoes. Now the flesh arranges itself differently. mainly because it made her feel safe. I need to believe it. one of the guys that worked at the house. continuing on and on. I have one more chance. ³I would like to believe this story I¶m telling. again. the shape of a pear. marking time. Time to take stock. Because of her hope for better days by the side of Luke and their baby daughter she holds strong. I listen to my heart. but her inner state remains untouched. I must believe it. make things happen. one with me. but my body was nevertheless lithe. She fears pain and even though she wishes to get out of that torture she does nothing. I am thirty-three years old. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better . Gilead and the regime might have taken over her body. again. or an implement for the accomplishment of my will. Offred rebels by writing this. Offred did internalize Gilead¶s attitude toward women. unlike her friend Moira who actually escapes. I have viable ovaries.´ (Atwood 74) Offred shows herself as a conformist. speaks up. it reminded her of Luke. I could use it to run. salty and red. push buttons of one sort or another. which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping«To feel that empty. wave upon wave. and she. ³I used to think of my body as an instrument. I have brown hair. I¶m a cloud around a central object.Becerra 3 you¶ve got. which treated them as objects and not as individuals.

. one of the Eyes or she was able after all those years of escaping her crude reality. the totalitarian state crushes the life of the main character and narrator Offred. Offred could have taken her life in many occasions. Then there will be an ending. I can pick up where I left off. Atwood leaves her fate inconclusive: either she was left under the fate of Nick. If it¶s a story I¶m telling. to the story. and real life will come after it. of crying when something hurt. At the end. but her fear of pain and what remained of her hope made her stay put.Becerra 4 chance. with the memories of the times were she was in love and had the liberty of smiling when she wanted. Her relationship with her past. allowed her to remain strong. (Atwood 105) In this novel. then I have control over the ending.

The Handmaid's Tale. . Margaret Eleanor.Becerra 5 Works Cited: Atwood. New York: Random House Inc. 1998.

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