In Margaret Atwoods, The Handmaids Tale, our eyes are open to an oppressive society of which seems to be the near future. Widespread sterility has led to the rich controlling young women of childbearing age, who are called “handmaidens”. The tale is narrated by Kate, also known as “Offred”, her handmaid name. She relates her struggle throughout in the most vivid of ways. The struggle around her: the oppressive Republic of Gilead, and the struggle within herself: her effort to maintain her sanity. Her narration is tainted with one main motive, which is her relentless pursuit for the past. The way things used to be things that were so basic to her. Moreover, it is her strive to regain the freedom she has been stripped of which guides her. It is her light at the end of a tunnel she has involuntarily been placed.
In the republic of Gilead, women are categorized as Wives, Marthas, Aunts and Handmaids. The latter is considered to be the most valuable of their resources, for they are able to bear children. This society uses a systematic approach to produce offspring, in other words, for the republic to grow. The commanders, top- ranking officials of Gilead, are the wives husbands. Every so often, “ceremonies” are held where the Commander would attempt to impregnate the handmaid. If successful, the child was claimed by the wives as theirs. The handmaid was not more than a means to an end result.
Violation of the norms was not tolerated. The punishment in the most cases was death, which also served as an example to the handmaids. Thus conformity with the rules was a necessity to stay alive, something she questioned if it was worth or not.
In the end, Kate is accused of attending Jezebels with the Commander. Jezebels can be described as a getaway within the republic. A gathering of people who are there to socialize. Something Kate had been deprived from. In the final moments of her tale, as she sees guards come for her arrest (or so she thought) she contemplates suicide as an alternative for her demise. It was an option she highly welcomed for she rather give up her life than her sanity and her freedom. The guards who took her over came in with Nick (the driver), a character who played a positive role in her stay. They hop in the van. Destination: Unknown.
In the end, Atwood leaves up in the air the outcome of Kates removal. More likely than not, it is a positive one hinted by Nick appearance in the end.
Aside from the story one can find the underlying theme to be one that is not defined with one word. It is the idea of us taking such a basic right as freedom, in its many forms, for granted. Many at times, the only time we acknowledge what we have is when it is taken from us. In addition, another thematic issue notable to mention is the classification or categorization of the female gender. In the story, the women carry on a label, which goes in accordance to the roles they play in this fictitious society.
We must consider ourselves very fortunate for not living in a real-life Gilead. Nevertheless, the genre of this novel is not fantasy but rather fiction and thus implying this can actually occur. We must then recognize the problems that Atwood was trying to point out. The relationship between Gilead and our society is the fact that gender does play a major factor on the way we are expected to behave. Not drastically, such as in the novel but enough to coerce us to conduct ourselves distinctively and play the assigned role of our gender.