The Roles of Women in Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
"Feminist readings often discuss the "jobs" that are traditionally assigned to women, such as tending a home, caring for a husband, and bearing children, and the ways in which these jobs are used to keep women in a powerless position. Female sexuality, and the way that a patriarchal system - a societal structure in which men are the authorities and control the power structure - controls that sexuality are also common themes in feminist criticism."(Green 6).
This quote is a central idea in both Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Both novels, set in extremely patriarchal societies (despite the Gilead regime's claims to the contrary), are extremely restrictive of female expression of any form. Specifically, any form of sexual expression or desire outside of the accepted norm is strictly forbidden and enforced. Kate Chopin's setting for The Awakening is the socially restrictive late 19th century in the American Deep South - probably one of the least hospitable environments for feminism at the time. Offred's twisted theocracy of Gilead, though, is far worse, "[Reducing] the handmaids to the slavery status of being mere 'breeders'"(Malak...
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