Dystopian Literature: the Handmaid’s Tale Essay
Dystopian literature can be equated to the movie genre of science fiction albeit with few differences. The literature is often set by analyzing the current trends and the worst likely outcome if the trends are overstretched. At the start of such stories, the scenario presented is that could be described as Utopia hence the term ‘utopian’. However, as the story progresses, the scenario shifts from a perfect one to another where oppression is rampant thus the full name ‘Dystopian’. Dystopian literature has several elements including suffering, mistrust, and poverty. One such example of a dystopian literate is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s tale. This essay seeks to show that oppression has the strongest effect on the author’s story.
Offred was wife to one Luke, a divorcee with whom they had a daughter before coming to the Republic of Gilead. Prior to the arrival in this country, Offred and Luke sought to flee into Canada but their plans are thwarted when they are all captured. From here, Offred cannot tell the whereabouts of both Luke and her daughter. Evidently, the story here shows that Offred is psychologically suffering thus proving that this is dystopian literature. As noted by Atami (Atwood, p.24), this kind of literature, though purely fictitious, highlights various forms of anguish a character may undergo.
As earlier asserted, a dystopian story is also characterized by oppression where the characters at the center of the story suffer significantly. In the Republic of Gilead, Offred has now been assigned to a commander whose wife, Serah Joy, cannot conceive. The character has been assigned to have intimate relations with the commander for purposes of having a child on the family’s behalf. Despite expressing her displeasure and discomfort with the action, the commander goes ahead to coerce her into having sexual relations with him. The situation is worsened when Offred’s protests are met with harsh retorting that, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” (Atwood, p.66).
The situation becomes worse when Offred’s sexual relations sessions with the commander have to be performed with the help of the commander’s wife. In yet another scenario where suffering is evident entails Serena’s attempt to blackmail her into sleeping with another man, Nick. This suggestion is occasioned by Offred’s prolonged period in conceiving thus causing impatience in Serena. The commander’s wife compels her to sleep with Nick with a promise to bring her daughter’s picture (Atwood, p.30).
Coincidentally, the same night that Nick was to sleep with Offred the commander demanded the latter accompany him to a hotel, the Jezebel’s. Upon reaching this place, the commander spends time with prostitutes giving Offred some free time. While here, she sees Moira, who narrates her ordeal on why she chose the life of prostitution over that of prison. Later, the commander demanded further intimate relations where Offred obliged and feigned passion in a bid to overcome the pain of oppression (Atwood, p.197). This occurrence happened at the hotel before the two returned home.
The story’s suffering episodes continue when all handmaids including Offred stone supposed rapists. One of the house cleaners confides to her that the reason she participated in the stoning of the rapist was motivated her desire to end his suffering. In other words, the purported rapist had more sufferings, and his death would be somewhat better. Again, upon discovering that Offred went to the Jezebel’s, Serena sends to the room to await punishment.
A ceremony takes place in the republic, and the commander with all the household have to gather. Here, Offred is not allowed to sit or stand; rather she has to kneel down. Nick and others including Serena are seated, and still, Nick keeps on stepping Offred. Despite her many attempts to move her legs, Nick keeps moving his legs. In this scenario, she has to endure this unwelcome gesture without saying anything because of Serena’s influence on Nick (Atwood, p.37). Therefore, this underlines the assertion that the most moving effect in this story is the oppression exerted on Offred.
In conclusion, this dystopian literature perfectly fits the attributes associated with such works. As said elsewhere in the paper, dystopian works have the characters of oppression or suffering, poverty, and mistrust within them. While this story has all these, the most moving element is that of oppression, both physical and psychological that Offred has to go. Even when not involved in sexual relations with the commander, Offred has no privacy. Apparently, there are secret soldiers assigned to observe her every moment. This action is, in itself oppressive because freedom is imperative to humans. Besides undergoing these humiliating and dehumanizing predicaments, Offred has to contend with the pain of separation from her family, especially her daughter.
Works cited: Adami, Valentina (2011), Bioethics Through Literature: Margaret Atwood’s Cautionary Tales, Trier: WVT., Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. London: Vintage Classic, 2010. Print.