The Handmaid's Tale

The Illusion of Power in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 12th Grade

Humans can only experience life subjectively: each of us is rooted in our own individual positions that cause us to perceive differing shades of reality. An awareness of this universal condition permeates Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, as June, the protagonist, constantly hints at the discrepancy between what society recognizes and what the individual perceives. Such awareness of this distinction allows June to subvert societal norms that ensnare her in conditions in which all semblances of power are placed out of her reach. She realizes that she can never overtly exert power, but can still subtly rebel against the system that oppresses her. In ironic displays of defiance, June takes advantage of her oppressed position to manipulate individuals who have more social power than she does.

June’s perception of the illusion of power is evidenced by her observation of the Commander’s Wife, Serena Joy, knitting elaborate scarves for the Angels. Such an activity is a common pastime for the wives of Commanders, even though June “can hardly believe the Angels have a need for such scarves” (Atwood 13). Nevertheless, June recognizes that knitting is satisfying in that it creates easily attainable goals for Serena Joy. The act of...

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