The Handmaid’s Tale as a Dystopian Novel By: Jessica Hagood Ian Martineau Daniel Nolfi
The novel takes place in the United States. The novel is set in the future. It is during a time when the government has been destroyed by a group of fundamentalists. Many women are infertile. Women may not own anything. This system has developed gradually.
“A dystopia (or alternatively cacotopia) is afictional society, usually portrayed as existing ina future time, when the conditions of life areextremely bad due to deprivation, oppression,or terror. Science fiction, particularly post-apocalyptic science fiction and cyberpunk,often feature dystopias. Social critics, especiallypostmodern social critics, also use the term"dystopian" to condemn trends in post-industrialsociety they see as negative.” (Charles’ George Orwell Links)
TheStatus of the IndividualThe main character has a low status. The Nature of PowerPower resides in one corrupt dictator or an entire corrupt government. CommunicationPoor, artificial communication; another method of control.
Offred is portrayed as low status by: She must go places in two’s. She is not allowed to touch anyone. She is controlled by Serena Joy. She is limited in speaking and may not read or write. She does not own any property.
Power is divided by: People are broken up into clearly defined classes that each have names. Each class has a certain power over one another. The Eyes are the commanding force. Even though each group has its own power, no one truly has that much power.
Communication is limited by: Handmaids must watch what they say and when they say it. People fear that there are microphones listening to what they say. There are no more newspapers or magazines. T.V. is regulated, and they only show positive aspects of the war. People are forbidden from talking about the past and people they once knew.
Exaggerates modern trends towards their most extreme conclusions. Often, this serves as a warning to the reader. Transformation of social structure into a rigid class system. The presence of a tyrannically government that controls all aspects of a society. In a Dystopian novel, the populace is under constant surveillance by said tyrannical state. Rigid rules and restriction of freedom to achieve idealized society. Often times these rules go against basic human nature. Other Examples of Dystopian Genre: George Orwell, “1984” Aldous Huxley, “A Brave New World”
Caste System: People are prescribed to rigid roles in Gilead. Women especially are divided into different classes which severely limit their rights. “It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency" (Atwood 174). The fundamentalists first kill those in power to destabilize the government and then enact martial law. After “temporarily suspending the constitution” and burning all of the books, they have complete intellectual power over the people. Aim to rid their society of abortion, free-thinkers and any religions apart from their own perverse version of Christianity.
Women take on feminine roles as… Commanders’ Wives Handmaids Marthas Econowives Unwomen Unbabies Jezebels" We are two-legged wombs, thats all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices” ( 176).
Men take on leadership and “in control” roles… Commanders Angels Eyes Guardians
Red: Handmaids Faster heartbeat and breathing (life). Blue: Wives Sad and depressing. Green: Marthas Calm and relaxing. Black: Eyes Authority and power. Implies submission. Stripes: Econowives Mix of all colors. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/colors1.html
Novel They still have common things such as stop signs, sidewalks, dishtowels, etc. There is a black market. “Even now that there is no real money anymore, there’s still a black market” (14). Men still “caress” their cars. “ This at least hasn’t changed, the way men caress good cars” (17). They still have games like Scrabble. “I’d like you to play a game of Scrabble with me” (138).
Privacy Freedoms Speech Press Religion Equality Ability to Travel (change as well) Love Piece of Mind