The Handmaid's Tale

The Oppressiveness of Myths in The Handmaid’s Tale 12th Grade

Myths are essential to the human race. The Greeks and Romans used them to explain nature, life and death. Abrahamic and Eastern religions use them to modify behavior and mollify human anxiety about what happens postmortem. In order to keep a myth alive, to retain and exercise belief in it, people developed rituals. As Joseph Campbell said, “A ritual is the enactment of a myth”. In an age before science, myths and their rituals are what kept the world in order. Yet even today, it is human nature to believe in myths. As they have been around for much longer than science, we still cannot rid ourselves of our inclination towards rituals. Though our intellect, our brain may tell us something isn’t true, our blood and our spirit cave in to the ritual. Eventually, our truth becomes the truth of the myth. As Campbell claims, “by participating in a ritual...you are being, as it were, put in accordance with that wisdom [of the ritual]...which is the wisdom of your own life”. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale addresses this battle of ritual and wisdom. Through her character Offred, Atwood reflects Campbell’s quote. As Offred practices the many myths and rituals Gilead has set in place for women like her, what she believes is right and...

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