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Handmaids Tale Essay, Research Paper

The Handmaid Tale

“The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a dystopia about a world

where unrealistic things take place. The events in the novel could

never actually take place in our reality.” This is what most people

think and assume, but they’re wrong. Look at the world today and in the

recent past, and there are not only many situations that have ALMOST

become a Gilead, but places that have been and ARE Gileadean societies.

We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!

Even today there are places in the world where there is startling

similarity to this fictitious dystopia. In Pakistan, women’s rights are

non-existant, and many policies are that of Gilead in The Handmaid’s

Tale. In Gilead, the handmaids must cover their bodies and faces almost

completely with vales and wings. In Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan,

Bahrain, and similar South Asian countries, this is a must for women.

Other Gileadean-like persecutions take place towards women. In

Pakistan, women can be raped, and unless there is full proof that there

was no consent, the man will get off scot free, and the women charged

with pre-marital sex and sentenced to a prison term. In Afghanistan,

the police force has and continue to torture and rape innocent women for

unnecessary reasons. This is similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in that

Offred, and other handmaids, not only go through the devestation of “The

Ceremony”, but also can be used and possibly even raped by their

Commanders, and there is nothing the handmaid can do about it. If she

speaks, she is usually not believed, and then she is sent away because

she broke the law. The handmaid would usually die for making such


Women are given little to no rights in Gilead. They obey what they are

told by the men or by the Aunts (who get their orders from the men).

They are not permitted to read or write, or participate in any

extra-curricular activity. They are alive only to serve a purpose. In

countries such Iran, women are subject to similar laws. Although more

recently they may be allowedread and write, it is on a strict level

only, and activites are out of the question. There is no specific law

against it, however with the Islamic government making it manditory for

all women to wear complete body coverings, sports and other activities

are nearly impossible.

Women in Gilead belong to the men. Whether it was Offred, Ofglen, or

Ofwarren, they were possessive items. In many Arabic countries, women

belong to their husband. Men, in turn, may have many women, which

belong to them. They must obey their husbands, or the husband legally

has to right to do what he want to his wife.

The Handmaids in Gilead had one purpose: to have babies. However,

two-thirds of the babies were killed because of imperfections. This is

very similar to SouthAsian countries. Many babies are killed every day

either because of imperfections or because they are just not wanted. In

India, female babies have to be killed, reportedly 16 million every


“It feels as if you’ve been turned inside out. You’ve just given

birth and finally you feel emptied. You’re exhausted. Your breasts are

painfully full of milk. And then you look at your baby. And you see that

she’s a little girl. And you know that you have to kill her.” Replace

‘little girl’ with unbaby, and it could be an exact account from a

Handmaid in Gilead, at the loss of her baby. However, it’s a quote from

a woman in India in 1996. 1996 in the real world, not Gilead.

Colonial America, back in the 1700’s, was very racist and also ran as a

theocracy. Especially in New England, religious freedom was not

allowed, and people were punished by the courts for religious reasons.

Those that weren’t a specific type of Christianity were not considered

“right.” In the South there was also black slavery. Both of these are

similar to The Handmaid’s Tale because those not of a specific type of

Christianity or skin color were sent away, to the colonies, or killed.

Baptists were not of the selected religion, as well as Islamics, and

Jewish people were told to go back to Israel. Many blacks were killed

as well. The fact that Colonial America had slaves is also similar to

the slavery of women in the Handmaid’s Tale. Whether it was the Marthas

serving the household, the wife serving her commander, the handmaid

serving as a walking womb, the women of Jezzebel’s serving as personal

sex slaves for the Commanders, or those in the Colonies serving society,

there was obvious slavery in Gilead. Even the lower-class men were

slaves, given no freedom.

Today in the United States, there are still groups that believe this.

The “Aryan Nations”, headquarters in Idaho, are a paramilitary hate

group who believe that Anglo-Saxans, not Jews, are not actually God’s

chosen people, non-whites are just “mud people” at the level of animals,

and that Jews are “Children of Satan” There are the KKK and neo-nazis

that have similar, Gileadean-like beliefs regarding other races, and

this is NOT fiction.

Many religions today twist terms in the Bible to make it work to their

advantage, just like the Republic of Gilead did with the Old Testament.

Jehovah’s witnesses, for instance, believe that Genesis 9, verse 4,

which states “But you must not eat meat that has its life-blood still in

it” also refers to blood transfusions. This policy and belief has left

many children and adults for dead instead of living by getting a blood

transfusion. “The Holy Order of Mans”, a religion based in Cheyenne,

Wyoming, paraphrase many Bible quotes to get people into their cult.

Their slogan is “And by their work ye shall know them” from Matthew

7:20, however the ACTUAL Matthew 7:20 states “And by their fruit ye

shall know them”, referring to fruit trees in a garden. The way that

The Order of Mans interprets it is to get all their members to work hard

and give all their earnings to the order, and then they will truly know

the word of God. The “Foundation Faith of God” takes the statement

“Love your enemies” from the Bible and makes it to include Satan.

This religion actually combines Christianity with Satanism, but to its

followers, it is completely Biblical based on its misquotes. That is

just like Gilead, misquoting and twisting around the story of Rachel and

Jacob in Genesis to make everything they do seem completely Biblical and


Finally, there is the largest and most prominent of all racial biggotry

in the world’s recent history, the Halocaust of WWII. Adolf Hitler was

a sick man, yet a smart man, very similar to the leaders of the

fictitious Gilead. Unlike Gilead, however, Hilter’s “Perfect World”

idea did not quite succeed, however the damage was much greater. Under

Hitler, 11 million Jews were killed, and many more sent to concentration

camps. In Gilead, Jews were sent away, and if they didn’t go, they were

sent to the Colonies, where they would eventually die. The Colonies

themselves are similar to the concentration camps of WWII, where people

would go to, eventually, die. Black people were not considered good in

either society. Hitler had them killed, while in Gilead, they were

killed or shipped off to the Colonies. Homosexuals were not treated as

equals in either society either. In the fictional Republic of Gilead,

homosexuals were often killed and hung on the Wall. In WWII, Hiltler

ordered all homosexuals to die. They weren’t even given the distiction

of being slaves, even those that appeared Aryan.

Many Slavs, Poles, and even German women that were not worthy of Aryan

status were used in breeding by Hitler, to keep the population going.

This is very similar to the Handmaid’s Tale because women that were in

their second marriage, lesbians, and other non-perfect women that still

had viable ovaries were sent to different houses to basically breed and

produce healthy children that were then taken away and given to the


If Adolph Hitler had succeeded in his attempt to take over the world

and make it a Nazi Federation, we would all be living in a reality far

worse than any Gilead.

Every aspect of the Handmaid’s Tale that makes it a dystopia can be

found in recent past or in the present around the world. The

mistreatment of women, the killing of innocent babies for the good of

the state, the racist beliefs and actions, and senseless killings of

non-whites, attempts at Theocracies, and religions gaining in strenght,

making believers out of paraphrases and outright lies: All of these are

in our world, the real world. Margaret Atwood has created a “story”

that isn’t really a story. It is a representation of all that is wrong

with our world today. So, in fact, this imaginative tale is not so far

fetched. We are living in it.

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