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Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale we see that the dreams of republicans like Newt Gingrich, Charleton Heston, Trent Lott and others have finally come true: a right-wing religious extremist government has won power. Stolen power through coercion and terrorism would be more like it. Thus, our heroine finds that the new Republic of Gilead is one where all sex shows and pornography shops are closed, soldiers with guns orchestrate the firing of all female workers, any marriage other than the first is unlawful, abortions are criminalized, and women are denied education and are relegated to “prisoner” status in one manner or another. Yet, if we closely examine the reproductive controls and denials of reproductive freedoms in Atwood’s gripping and cautionary tale of a government based on God and The Old Testament, we see that many of the scenarios involved in the novel can be applied to situations in recent or contemporary history. Citizens become slaves to a totalitarian theocracy whose chief tools of consensus are violence and murder. This analysis will discuss reproductive control measures in Gilead, including the overall oppression of women, and apply them to examples from modern history.

The fanatical doctrine imposed on citizens by the Republic of Gilead is not so fanatical if we apply some of its prescriptions to modern history. Women are not allowed to read or writer and basically remain captives in some way. We can see this is not so far-fetched if we think of autobiographical accounts of oppression against women. For example, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, we see that the narrator has suffered a nervous breakdown from the infamous “rest” cure proscribed by her male physician – one which mandated no reading, writing, and complete captive bed-rest as a means to mental health.

Further, we see that birth rates have declined allegedly because of industrial poisoning and pollutio...

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Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:01, June 19, 2019, from