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How The Handmaid’s Tale Remains Relevant

The Handmaid’s Tale seems to reflect our world today. Is Atwood’s novel entirely dystopian, or is she warning us?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood presents a dystopian society. However, there are ways in which it mirrors reality. Although published decades ago, it remains alarmingly relevant. 

Women are Property of Men

The Dystopian society, Gilead, categorizes women based on their relationships to men and their fertileness. “Handmaid” refers to an assigned women who then must get pregnant. An unmarried woman’s value is based solely on her fertility. A married woman has the benefits of companionship, but is still dominated by her husband.

It is no secret that women have long been fighting for reproductive rights. In the last year, Alabama created an abortion ban. It is clear that we are still fighting a battle that should have ended decades ago.

Infertility is Unwelcome

In Gilead, fertility is at a low. So, fertile women are commodities. They are enslaved and suppressed, while the men kill the remaining infertile women.

Today infertility remains a taboo subject. While the number of childless women is rising, many women feel obligated to have children. In addition, media encourages women to devote themselves to settling down.

Women are Stripped of Identities 

Handmaids are named based on the men in charge; for instance, the main character, Offred, is assigned to the commander, Fred. Thus, she is “Of Fred”. This underlines the horrific power imbalance and oppression. Additionally, it illustrates women holding identities inseparable from their commanders. 

Religion Reigns

The Handmaid’s Tale illustrates how religion can be used for evil when people abuse power. Puritan fundamentalists rule Gilead, committing unspeakable acts justified by biblical passages. For instance, the handmaid must attend a ceremony where she is brutally raped by her husband, an event based on a story in the Old Testament

Today many people who oppose homosexuality use Bible passages to justify their resistance. They selectively choose dated and inappropriate passages. Thus, they continue to abuse their religious values as they oppress individuals.

Featured Image by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

No attribution required, free to use.

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