Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the theocratic-totalitarian state that used to be the United States. Handmaids are women that are assigned to live with a commander and his wife. The Handmaids are forced to carry out two jobs: shopping and having meaningless sex with the commanders. After all of the chemical spills in the United States, fertility rates decreased, so handmaids are only used for having children. If they do not have children, then they are sent away to either clean up the chemical spills or be killed. Handmaid’s names consist of the word “of” followed by the commander’s name to show who each handmaid belongs to. The main character’s name is Offred- Of Fred.

Before the theocratic-militaristic group took over the United States, Offred lived a normal life. She had a relationship with a previously married man named Luke, and together they had a kid. Offred often remembers her mom and best friend, Moira, as being strong and independent women. Her mom was a single mom and feminist activist, while Moira was an independent lesbian woman. About four years after Luke and Offred's marriage, pollution and chemical spills start to lower fertility rates. Around this time, the military group assassinated the President and all of congress, and declared that the constitution would be suspended temporarily while they tried to reorganize and “fix” the government. This new government slowly started to take more and more rights away from women, like not allowing women to have access to their own money or hold jobs. Offred and Luke decide to quietly run away to Canada with their daughter, but right before the border, they are caught and separated. Offred has not seen Luke or her child since then but often thinks about them in her new life.

After Offred was captured, she was sent to the Red-Center to be taught all of Gilead’s views on how women should live their lives and how they should interact with men. Shortly after she is taken to the Red-Center, her friend Moira is brought in. Moira can’t stand being confined and told what to do so she escapes by attacking one of the women in charge (one of the Aunts), and taking her clothes so no one will recognize her as she walked out the front door. After her time at the Red-Center, Offred is sent to live with the commander and his wife Serena Joy. Serena doesn’t like Offred because she knows she will have to have sex with her husband. Although Offred is uncomfortable in her new life, she knows she must adapt to survive. She is allowed out of the house once a week to go on short shopping trips with her shopping partner Ofglen, and no matter what the weather is like, the handmaids must wear long red dresses that covers the entire body and a white hat that covers the face. Offred and Ofglen are not allowed to talk to each other on their trips except for using the “proper” pre-approved greetings. One day, Offred gets a mysterious message from the commander’s chauffeur Nick. Nick tells her that the commander wants to have a secret meeting with Offred. Offred knows how dangerous this is, because if she gets caught, she could be sent away to the colonies and work as an “Unwoman” and clean up the chemical spills. Despite this possibility, Offred goes to meet with the commander, and when she gets to his office, he asks her to play Scrabble with him. Even playing Scrabble is against the law because women are not even allowed to read. After she leaves, he asks her to kiss him and she does. Once every week, Offred goes to the commander’s office to play Scrabble with him and then gives him a kiss at the end of each night.

One day, Serena Joy asks Offred to have sex with Nick because she thinks the commander is infertile. She tells Offred to pretend that the baby is the commander’s child. Offred agrees to have sex with Nick later that night. That night, Offred is summoned to the commander’s office, where he asks Offred to go to an underground strip club with him. When the two get to the club, Offred sees Moira working there. Moira tells her that the club is where the commanders go after work to have sex with the women working there. Offred ends up going into a room with the commander at the club and having sex with him. When Offred gets home she meets with Nick and they also have sex. Nick and Offred agree to meet whenever they can to have sex, but Serena catches the two together and I won't reveal the end of the story so anyone who wants to read the book can. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense stories because little bits of the story are given at a time so you have to piece it together yourself.



1. Why do you think the author chose to make Gilead in the future, and do you think it's possible that Gilead could ever really happen in the United States?

2. How would you feel if you were forced to live this kind of life (being forced to have sex with men you didn't know and having no real freedoms)?

3. Do you think it's possible to make a "perfect society"?

18 comments:

Heather M. 13-14 said...

If I were forced to live the kind of life that Offred lived, i would feel terrible. I would hate knowing that i have no freedom and that i dont have the power to make decisions for myself. Always having someone control my life would be so stressful and annoying. It would feel like i was their slave, instead of my own person. Everyone should have the opportunity to make their own decisions, within reason, and should not be forced against their will to something.

Jacob B 11-12 said...

I do not believe it is possible to have a perfect society. Every person has a different idea of what a perfect society is so not everyone will be happy. in the case of this book the "perfect society is not so perfect for the women who are seen as slaves

Cassie M 11-12 said...

I do not believe that a perfect society can ever exist because there is no perfect human being. Crime, although it can be dramatically reduced, will never disappear; it is almost impossible to remove all the reasons that a person will commit a crime. Also, many people are selfish and racist. This is something that cannot be made to disappear in any society. The only way for there to be a perfect society would be for all the people to be perfect and exactly the same.

tyler k 13-14 said...

I don't believe the perfect society does or could exist because life should be lived as an individual since everyone has different ways to view life.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

I agree with Heather; it would be a terrible feeling to have all your freedoms striped from you, to have to live a hopeless and chained existence.Also, I agree with the other comments that it would be impossible to create a perfect society. Everyone is different and it is impossible to make laws that apply to everyone and to make everyone work for the common good. Selfishness is part of human nature.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

No, I don't think it is possible to have a perfect society. I think that after people have had the opportunity to excercise free will for so long now, that they would not be willing to subject themselves to all of the rules that a government would set up that would qualify as a "perfect society." Every individual has their own ideals and ideas of mannerisms and characteristics of a soceity that would be perfect, and it is indefinately impossible to ever create a soceity where ALL of these wants and needs are met.

LeahS11-12 said...

I think that it is impossible to make a "perfect" society. Humans are flawed with desire for power, which leads to the corruption of equality. Without equality in a society, it cannot be considered "perfect".

MaryL11-12 said...

If I was forced to live a life like that I would be miserable. The sex thing alone is bad enough let alone not having any other freedoms. Sex is supposed to be between two people that love each other but people have gotten so sick about it in the last however many years that it's lost its meaning. It's degrading to be used for something like sex and no one should have to life their life that way.

Kelsey M. 11/12 said...

3)So many authors have written about fictional societies that are meant to be perfect. They often do this though to show that a utopia cannot ever exist. No one in a society will ever be happy with everything that is going on, and there will always be people that feel like they are treated unfairly. The governments in these stories often try to brainwash people to get them to act the way they want. Despite this, there will always be people who still think for themselves and will challenge the government. Overall, there is really no way to achieve perfection in any part of life.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

To answer the second question, if I were forced to live any kind of a life that I did not personally have the desire to live, I would feel as if I were being robbed of my natural right as a citizen in this world. We as Americans tend to take advantage of the freedoms that we have, but in reality, there are many areas of the world where women are used and treated in this way. It is sad to think that people could be treated so disrespectfully, but unfortunately it does occur. I could not imagine not having the freedoms I have that allow my to live my life in the way that I so choose. To answer the third question, I absolutely do not think it's possible to make a "perfect society." I think it's impossible to have a uniform set of rules that will please everyone. There will always be imperfections within a society whether it be regarding the rules, the people, etc.

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

If I was forced to live that life, I think I would slip into a major identity crisis. I'm big on knowing who I am and knowing where I am going in my future, and not having control over that pretty much drives me mad. With someone forcing me to do things, I would lose sight of who I was no matter how long I try to remind myself because after a while, the memories begin to fade.

CorinneS5/6 said...

The country in the future is unlikely but the author did it to exxagerate the way that some countries in the world function today and it is also an exxageration of the US and a statement about womens rights as being more than just mothers. If I were forced intothat situation I think I would attempt to run away at all costs just like her friend did because I could not stand knowing that the people owned me. I think it is not possible to make the perfect society because people are not perfect.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

2. I would not feel like a real person. I would feel like a puppet because I would not have any freedom. Someone is litteraly making all the decisions for your own life. Also, it would make me feel like a bad person having sex with many different men.
3. I do not think it is possible to make a "perfect society." Not everyone would work together to make it perfect. It would be hard to get everyone to cooperate. If we did, we would still have to figure out exactly how to make a perfect place.

Hannah L 13-14 said...

3. I do not think there is any way to make a "perfect society." People are all so different and each one is an individual, therefore each person has an individual idea on what is "perfect." The typical thought for a perfect society, I believe, is that there is no crime and everyone gets along. This is all very improbable to accompolish in a society because of how people seem to naturally be. Although you may have good people there will always be someone that will not fit the standards of being "good" and will ruin it for the rest of them.

Dana G. 13-14 said...

#3
I do not think a perfect society can ever exist, no matter how hard one tries. There are always people that will rebel against rules. if everyone was uniform in a society, the consistentsy would make the society boring.

Greg P. 13-14 said...

It is not possible to make a perfect society because humans themselves are imperfect.

Nick E. 13-14 said...

2. I know I'll probably get criticized for choosing this question, but I'm going to answer it anyway. If I were forced to have sex with a woman whome I had no connection to, it would be very damaging to my mental state. Being someone who tends to look for love before lust, I find that if I were to be forced to have sex with a woman I did not love, it would just feel... wrong. Like, it's hard to explain. It just wouldn't feel right. You'd need some kind of emotion to truly enjoy it.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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