The Handmaid's Tale

The Institution of Marriage and Its Ugly Consequences  College

Even though it is not as frowned upon anymore, single women are still deemed spinsters, as if something must be wrong with them because they are not married. Despite the progress we have made for women’s rights in America, marriage is still an institution that is pushed onto women. Through her use of Gilead as a symbol for the institution of marriage in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood critiques marriage for perpetuating misogyny through stripping women of their identities, dehumanizing them, and simplifying them into machines of reproduction.

Like marriage, Gilead strips women of their personal identities mainly through removing their names. In Gilead, the women are not referred to as a name of their own. Instead, the women are given the name of the man that they live with. For example, the Handmaids are always named some form of “Of” followed by a man’s name, like “Fred” or “Glen.” The word “of” expresses possession, as if the Handmaids are an object that a man could possess, rather than a human being. The Handmaids’ names literally mean that they are “of a man,” rather than being “of themselves.” Also, in one of the first scenes that we are exposed to Serena Joy, Offred refers to her as “the Commander’s Wife” (9). This...

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