The Handmaid's Tale

Love and Death: The Complexity of Emotion in Gileadean Society 12th Grade

There are countless disparities between the society of Gilead and 1980s America. In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the citizens of this dystopian totalitarian state have unconventional reactions to life, death, sex, and violence. When we are first introduced to Offred, our protagonist describes for us her current setting. She is in a gymnasium of sorts but has a unique emotional reaction to her surroundings. “We yearned for the future…” says Offred (3). “It was in the air; and it was still in the air, an afterthought, as we tried to sleep…” (4) This first glimpse into Gilead is extremely revealing in regards to how our society has changed. Something so simple as a university gymnasium has become so sentimental, a palimpsest of what was once Cambridge, Massachusetts in the wonderful nation that no longer is.

One major aspect of Gileadean society that differs greatly from ours is the way the citizens view life and death. In Gilead, public executions are commonplace, and seeing the dead on display is something Handmaids experience daily. “It’s the bags over their heads that are the worst, worse than the faces themselves would be” Offred thinks as she sees dead men hanging from what they call the Wall (32). “The heads are...

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