Pt 4 The Handmaids Tale Essay

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The Satire of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay example

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The Handmaid's Tale has been described as a scathing satire and a dire warning! Which elements of our own society is Margaret atwood satirising and how does her satire work ?

Atwood tries to open our eyes by satirising our society with a brilliant contrasting novel. Dystopian in every way, the reader encounters a world in which modern values of our society seem/ are replaceable. Showing the worst of all possible outcomes, she demonstrates that our primarily heartless, just economical thinking could bring the downfall of our society. Altough satires are often used to be funny ;Atwood uses this instrument of literature for an attack on a society which she strongly disapproves of. With the intent to bring about improvement, she…show more content…

Altough this can be understood as positive and it certainly is for a few things. Margaret Atwood satirises this aspect of our society as a co-product of globalisation. Which pressurises naturally us as human beings naturally not thinking in too big dimensions. Sadly this can cause us to live completely in the future at the expense of the small things in life happening in the present right in front of our eyes.

However the gileadean society, values the aspect of present events more than us, being an indication of Atwood to return into the present as to be scared by the future before it is too late. As time is relative, our perception of it can change aswell. Resulting in the sorrowful comprehension that we missed a great part of our lives. “ Live in the present, make the most of it, it's all you've got.”

Also birth rates and sex are satirised in her novel with the same tactical precision as in the earlier satires. Margaret Atwood uses an indirect style comparable to an allegory to highlight important issues. “I am alive, I live, I breathe, I put my hand out, unfolded, into the sunlight. Where I am is not a prison but a privilege.”

Rather than a direct style this needs more thinking from the reader which on the other side supports the readers understanding of the problems Atwood addresses in her novel. Margaret Atwood's style clearly leaves room for the reader whether to

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Often, the small horrors we can imagine are more frightening than the big ones we cannot comprehend. There is one such moment in The Handmaid’s Tale, where the narrator, Offred, is told why the chandelier in her room was removed: her predecessor, another woman used as a breeding tool by the master of the house, hanged herself from it.

It’s a tiny, terrible moment on a spectrum of grander horrors, but it perfectly encapsulates the brutal reality of Gilead, the patriarchal theocracy that takes over America in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel and the new TV adaptation. In both the show and the book, Offred is a handmaid: one of the few remaining fertile women who are forced to have sex with powerful men and bear their children. This isn’t a world where men treat women equally; they just take the chandelier down, to stop the next one from getting away.

The Handmaid's Tale review – timely adaptation scares with dystopian dread

While precedent says readers are not wrong to be sceptical of adaptations, it would be a disservice to write off the TV take on Atwood’s book: both are masterpieces, in their own ways. But for all the novel’s power, it is 30 years old, written by Atwood as she travelled through West Germany and behind the Iron Curtain; and reading it today, it is easy to feel there is a missing piece, a disconnect between where we are now in 2017 and how we would get to our own Gilead. It is telling that The Handmaid’s Tale is sometimes miscategorised as science-fiction – we don’t like to consider it as a possibility.

Even for those who have read the book, there is something raw and new in seeing Atwood’s tale on screen. Even when you know it is coming, it is hard to witness Offred – played marvellously by Elisabeth Moss – silently being raped by the commander, her head gently banging into his wife’s lap as she holds her arms down. It is tough to watch the handmaids hurry past lines of bodies hanging from walls, variously damned for being gay, Catholic, an abortion clinic worker. Women have eyes plucked from their heads, endure clitoridectomies as punishment. We are shown exactly how bad such a future would be, if it ever happened.

And, smartly, the adaptation goes off-book, adding all the necessary tweaks to show exactly how it could happen. Atwood’s book thrusts the reader right into Gilead, with only small references to what came before. Flashbacks on TV are usually awful, but not here: watching Offred, then called June, being slowly and insidiously punished in an America not far from the one we know, is terrifyingly realisable. She is marched from her office with stunned colleagues because women aren’t allowed to earn income. She stares at an ATM screen as it denies her a withdrawal, disbelief all over her slack face. Strangely, these comparably lesser injustices shock almost as much as the sexual violence she endures later; we have jobs, we use ATMs. The small horrors have their own power.

And a scene in a cafe, where she is viciously branded a “slut” by a barista surely smarts for every woman watching who, statistically, will have endured such unsolicited misogyny from a stranger at some point. Even Atwood herself has found the reality of the show disturbing, writing of a scene where the handmaids shame a woman who was gang raped: “I found this scene horribly upsetting. It was way too much like way too much history.”

The novelist famously constructed her dystopian world using only historical precedents, digging at America’s Puritan roots to build Gilead, then mining other parts from the past – the Nazi party’s Lebensborn program, designed to encourage a high birth rate among Aryan women; book burnings; the religious iconography seen in the enforced dress codes; state surveillance in China and East Germany. Some have even praised the show for the timeliness of its adaptation, falling as it has so soon after the election of President Donald Trump. When before has America needed to take such a hard look at itself, and consider the hypocritical, misogynist prurience that seems to drive so many of its political figures? Tellingly, since the show started being promoted in America, women have been attending marches and protests dressed in the red robe and white bonnet made iconic by Atwood’s handmaids.

But, arguably, there has also never been a moment since Atwood’s book arrived on shelves that this story hasn’t been timely. What should be praised is the willingness to translate it for audiences today. We are blessed, in a strange way, that it has the capacity to shock us still.

The Handmaid’s Tale starts in the UK on Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4, and continues in the US on Wednesdays on Hulu.


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