The Handmaid Tale
"The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a dystopia about a world
where unrealistic things take place. The events in the novel could
never actually take place in our reality." This is what most people
think and assume, but they're wrong. Look at the world today and in the
recent past, and there are not only many situations that have ALMOST
become a Gilead, but places that have been and ARE Gileadean societies.
We're not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!
Even today there are places in the world where there is startling
similarity to this fictitious dystopia. In Pakistan, women's rights are
non-existant, and many policies are that of Gilead in The Handmaid's
Tale. In Gilead, the handmaids must cover their bodies and faces almost
completely with vales and wings. In Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan,
Bahrain, and similar South Asian countries, this is a must for women.
Other Gileadean-like persecutions take place towards women. In
Pakistan, women can be raped, and unless there is full proof that there
was no consent, the man will get off scot free, and the women charged
with pre-marital sex and sentenced to a prison term. In Afghanistan,
the police force has and continue to torture and rape innocent women for
unnecessary reasons. This is similar to The Handmaid's Tale in that
Offred, and other handmaids, not only go through the devestation of "The
Ceremony", but also can be used and possibly even raped by their
Commanders, and there is nothing the handmaid can do about it. If she
speaks, she is usually not believed, and then she is sent away because
she broke the law. The handmaid would usually die for making such
Women are given little to no rights in Gilead. They obey what they are
told by the men or by the Aunts (who get their orders from the men).
They are not permitted to read or write, or participate in any
extra-curricular activity. They are alive only to serve a purpose. In
countries such Iran, women are subject to similar laws. Although more
recently they may be allowedread and write, it is on a strict level
only, and activites are out of the question. There is no specific law
against it, however with the Islamic government making it manditory for
all women to wear complete body coverings, sports and other activities
are nearly impossible.
Women in Gilead belong to the men. Whether it was Offred, Ofglen, or
Ofwarren, they were possessive items. In many Arabic countries, women
belong to their husband. Men, in turn, may have many women, which
belong to them. They must obey their husbands, or the husband legally
has to right to do what he want to his wife.
The Handmaids in Gilead had one purpose: to have babies. However,
two-thirds of the babies were killed because of imperfections. This is
very similar to SouthAsian countries. Many babies are killed every day
either because of imperfections or because they are just not wanted. In
India, female babies have to be killed, reportedly 16 million every
"It feels as if you've been turned inside out. You've just given
birth and finally you feel emptied. You're exhausted. Your breasts are
painfully full of milk. And then you look at your baby. And you see that
she's a little girl. And you know that you have to kill her." Replace
'little girl' with unbaby, and it could be an exact account from a
Handmaid in Gilead, at the loss of her baby. However, it's a quote from
a woman in India in 1996. 1996 in the real world, not Gilead.
Colonial America, back in the 1700's, was very racist and also ran as a
theocracy. Especially in New England, religious freedom was not
allowed, and people were punished by the courts for religious reasons.
Those that weren't a specific type of Christianity were not considered
"right." In the South there was also black slavery. Both of these are
similar to The Handmaid's Tale because those not of a specific type of
Christianity or skin color were sent away, to the colonies, or killed.
Baptists were not of the selected religion, as well as Islamics, and
Jewish people were told to go back to Israel. Many blacks were killed
as well. The fact that Colonial America had slaves is also similar to
the slavery of women in the Handmaid's Tale. Whether it was the Marthas
serving the household, the wife serving her commander, the handmaid
serving as a walking womb, the women of Jezzebel's serving as personal
sex slaves for the Commanders, or those in the Colonies serving society,
there was obvious slavery in Gilead. Even the lower-class men were
slaves, given no freedom.
Today in the United States, there are still groups that believe this.
The "Aryan Nations", headquarters in Idaho, are a paramilitary hate
group who believe that Anglo-Saxans, not Jews, are not actually God's
chosen people, non-whites are just "mud people" at the level of animals,
and that Jews are "Children of Satan" There are the KKK and neo-nazis
that have similar, Gileadean-like beliefs regarding other races, and
this is NOT fiction.
Many religions today twist terms in the Bible to make it work to their
advantage, just like the Republic of Gilead did with the Old Testament.
Jehovah's witnesses, for instance, believe that Genesis 9, verse 4,
which states "But you must not eat meat that has its life-blood still in
it" also refers to blood transfusions. This policy and belief has left
many children and adults for dead instead of living by getting a blood
transfusion. "The Holy Order of Mans", a religion based in Cheyenne,
Wyoming, paraphrase many Bible quotes to get people into their cult.
Their slogan is "And by their work ye shall know them" from Matthew
7:20, however the ACTUAL Matthew 7:20 states "And by their fruit ye
shall know them", referring to fruit trees in a garden. The way that
The Order of Mans interprets it is to get all their members to work hard
and give all their earnings to the order, and then they will truly know
the word of God. The "Foundation Faith of God" takes the statement
"Love your enemies" from the Bible and makes it to include Satan.
This religion actually combines Christianity with Satanism, but to its
followers, it is completely Biblical based on its misquotes. That is
just like Gilead, misquoting and twisting around the story of Rachel and
Jacob in Genesis to make everything they do seem completely Biblical and
Finally, there is the largest and most prominent of all racial biggotry
in the world's recent history, the Halocaust of WWII. Adolf Hitler was
a sick man, yet a smart man, very similar to the leaders of the
fictitious Gilead. Unlike Gilead, however, Hilter's "Perfect World"
idea did not quite succeed, however the damage was much greater. Under
Hitler, 11 million Jews were killed, and many more sent to concentration
camps. In Gilead, Jews were sent away, and if they didn't go, they were
sent to the Colonies, where they would eventually die. The Colonies
themselves are similar to the concentration camps of WWII, where people
would go to, eventually, die. Black people were not considered good in
either society. Hitler had them killed, while in Gilead, they were
killed or shipped off to the Colonies. Homosexuals were not treated as
equals in either society either. In the fictional Republic of Gilead,
homosexuals were often killed and hung on the Wall. In WWII, Hiltler
ordered all homosexuals to die. They weren't even given the distiction
of being slaves, even those that appeared Aryan.
Many Slavs, Poles, and even German women that were not worthy of Aryan
status were used in breeding by Hitler, to keep the population going.
This is very similar to the Handmaid's Tale because women that were in
their second marriage, lesbians, and other non-perfect women that still
had viable ovaries were sent to different houses to basically breed and
produce healthy children that were then taken away and given to the
If Adolph Hitler had succeeded in his attempt to take over the world
and make it a Nazi Federation, we would all be living in a reality far
worse than any Gilead.
Every aspect of the Handmaid's Tale that makes it a dystopia can be
found in recent past or in the present around the world. The
mistreatment of women, the killing of innocent babies for the good of
the state, the racist beliefs and actions, and senseless killings of
non-whites, attempts at Theocracies, and religions gaining in strenght,
making believers out of paraphrases and outright lies: All of these are
in our world, the real world. Margaret Atwood has created a "story"
that isn't really a story. It is a representation of all that is wrong
with our world today. So, in fact, this imaginative tale is not so far
fetched. We are living in it.
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