Human beings are emotional creatures. Their feelings steer them in one direction or the next, and greatly determine who they are, and what they do. It is the human environment that triggers these feelings, and these feelings that in turn influence the human environment. They can be either positive or negative in nature, and are central to society and government. Since the government controls a great deal of what we are exposed to, they can control our emotions to some extent. Someone living in a populace that preaches love, friendship, and freedom is more likely to lead a happy life than someone in a populace that enforces fear, ignorance, and abasement. Such is the case in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Gilead takes environmental control to an extreme, and controls almost all aspects of it’s inhabitant’s lives. The handmaids are controlled within society by means of the self worth lowering ignorance, de-humanizing abasement, and the fear instilled by strict consequences to illegal actions.
Gilead’s government has taken away “freedom to” and given “freedom from”(Atwood, 33) to the handmaids. They regulate what they can and cannot know, forcing them into ignorance, and call it freedom. Reading has been forbidden, and “even the names of shops were too much temptation, [and are] known by their signs alone”(33).
The only word that Offred is given to look at is “FAITH in square print”(75) on a small pillow in her room. Even looking at this she wonders, “If [she] were caught, would it count?”(75).
Augustine and Freedom: Some Tentative Philosophical Reflections Evil-doing is neglect of eternal things and love of temporal things to the extent of becoming subject to them. This is done by the free choice of the will... Free will makes sin possible but it was given that man might live righteously. 1 This is a brief summary of what Augustine believed regarding (1) the origin of sin and (2) the ...
They are so used to not being able to read, that even at the sight of words and letters, they take precaution, and fear consequence. It was at the red center that the handmaids are first pumped full of the brainwashing propaganda that makes them think in this manner, “Once a week [they] had movies”(151), “old porno films from the seventies and eighties”(152).
These movies are used to make them hate the role women had played “in the days of anarchy”(33), and turn them against their past. They are successful in this, and make women believe that “[they] are containers, it is only the inside of [their] bodies that count”(124).
Handmaids are “kept on some kind of pill or drug, that [was] put in the food”(91), so that “after a time [the unordinary] would become ordinary”(45), and they will have conformed to the Gileadian lifestyle. Freedom of speech has also been taken away. They are only allowed to speak at certain times with “accepted greetings [and responses]”(25) that have been created for them. Additionally, people cannot sing songs “in public anymore”(71), especially ones that “use words like free, they are considered too dangerous”(71).
It is in these manners that the government of Gilead uses ignorance to control the handmaids and successfully forces them to “not want things they can’t have”(151).
Handmaids are humiliated and made examples of for their mistakes. Janine “burst into tears”(93) as she described how she was “gang raped at 14 and had an abortion”(92).
The aunts then made her “kneel in front of the class, hands behind her back, where all could see”(93) while the other handmaids taunted her, screaming “cry baby”(93), and telling her it was “her fault”(93) for “leading [men] on”(93).
This kind of treatment and humiliation was how they turned handmaids into objects, and planted the ideals of Gilead into their heads. No one wants to be “an example”(93) like Janine is, so no one openly questions authority. The handmaids are “one of many household chores”(64), and they are made to know it, to ensure they know that they are only useful as a vessel. They are forced to wear white wings over their faces in public to keep them “from being seen”(11), since it does not matter what they look like. Serena Joy “does not acknowledge [Offred’s] presence in any way”(61) whenever possible. The wives loathe the handmaids, and put up with them only because they must. Handmaids cannot even sit on chairs in certain places, chairs are for the more important members of society. They are forced to “take their place, kneeling”(101), or “[sitting] cross legged on the rug”(150) like small housedogs. This is the kind of degrading and humiliating treatment the handmaids receive in Gilead. They have it forced upon them, and only ever rebel because they have their memories of “the time before”. As the generations pass, and the abasement continues, women will conform “because they have [no] memories of another way”(151).
H2 align="center">The Novel Explores an Imaginary World. To what extent is Gilead built on familiar ideas and events from our own 20th Century Society. Throughout the novel, Offred brings the readers attention to the time before. This generally happens in the Night passages. It is in these passages where the reader is given a true insight into what Offred is really thinking. This is no doubt ...
The abasement faced by the handmaids is slowly grinding them down, like dust on a millstone, putting Gilead even more in control of their dynasty.
The last way that Gilead controls the handmaids is through fear. There are strict consequences to illegal deeds and acts within their society, and they have made punishment is a public ordeal, as to sway would-be-rebels. There are huge prison walls where “bodies hang by the necks”(42), and stages where the public must watch readers have “a hand cut off”(354).
However, that is only “on the third conviction”(354).
Even the handmaids know that “it does not matter if [they] look”(42) at these displays, and that they “are supposed to look”(42).
These things are there to intimidate them and let them know who is in control. To remind them that “none of [them] want[s] to looks like that”(93) or be in those situations. There is “barbed wire along the bottom”(42) and “broken glass set in concrete”(42) along the top of their prisons, making these buildings looks ever more intimidating. They are effective in detouring rebellion, “no one [will even go] through the gates willingly”(42).
The law enforcers in Gilead also carry around “electric cattle prods strung from their leather belts”(4) to discourage rebellious actions. These “objects of fear”(4) let the handmaids know that any ideas they get “[are] too dangerous”(80), and that in a lot of cases, “the penalty is death”(80).
They also live with the fear of being beaten or tortured, because the wives can “do almost anything to [them]…they just aren’t allowed to kill [them]”(354).
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” I bet no person will disagree to this statement. We all have fears. Some would admit it, most prefer hiding it. The fears we have inside serve as our weakness in our times of strong points. Facing and conquering these fears is the ultimate key to eradicate these frightening feelings inside us. To start with, what is fear? According to Encarta ...
With all of these fearful and intimidating influences surrounding them, the handmaids stay in line with no questions asked.
In the dystopic society of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the government controls the environment that the populace lives in, and therefore, controls the emotions and lives of its inhabitants. They keep the handmaids ignorant of outside news, influence and knowledge because “what [they] don’t know won’t tempt [them]”(252).
They de-humanize them in front of their peers, to lower their esteem and morale. And they instill fear into them by displaying the gruesome consequences of crime for all the public to see. Through the control of these three methods, the handmaids are molded into ‘True Gileadians’ against their free will, or rather, against the lack there of. Emotions are like the Achilles heel of the human race, humans are at their weakest beneath them, their most shameful, pitiful, vulnerable, and hateful. They are the keyhole to the lock of power and control over the human race, a lock to which Mammon will always seek to hold the key. So it is, so it has been, and so it always shall be.