The Handmaid's Tale

Selfishness and Survival in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984

Are Winston, Julia and Offred eventually made into ‘reluctantly-selfish’ victims of totalitarian regimes or are they innately ‘pragmatically-selfish’ beings? Discuss in relation to The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984.

Offred and Winston, the main protagonists of the two strikingly similar dystopian fictions, The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, have disparate fates in the endings of the novels. Julia’s fate, however, is undetermined, as (like the two protagonists of both novels), she succumbs to the party out of the “selfish” desire to survive. Orwell gives us a fatalistic vision to his prophecy, where Winston dies. While Atwood gives us a positive ending, where the “heroine” finds hope in her romanticism with her secret lover Nick and presumably, survives by escaping from the regime to tell her story. Winston’s doom, however, partly lies in the core of the regime’s invincibility and partly lies in his impracticality and idealistic views on an indomitable regime. Offred, on the other hand, survives because of her ‘selfishness’ or ‘pragmatism’. Winston clearly shows himself to be selfish toward the end, but Offred, vacillates between being selfish and being a pragmatic post-feminist. It is perhaps her balance of selfishness and pragmatism that...

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