The Handmaid's Tale

The Politics of Writing in The Handmaid’s Tale College

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred describes her life as a concubine in a dystopic and patriarchal world, where fertile women are forced to provide children to their corresponding commanders. Most notably, women are not permitted to read or write in the Republic of Gilead, the faction inhabiting the formerly north eastern United States. Readers commonly accept Offred’s story as a warning against conservativism and Christian principles, enacted to an extreme. This basic interpretation fails to take into account the politics behind communication in the form of the recorded word. Writing and reading were strictly activities reserved for privileged men. Contrarily, women were not allowed to read or write because these pursuits were viewed as a means of power and a path towards awareness and understanding. If we neglect how reading and writing specifically are identified as masculine and correlated to the patriarchy in The Handmaid’s Tale, we will fail to understand the magnitude of the political aspects of writing, which can be used to oppress certain societal groups, as was the case in Offred’s recounting. These political aspects mainly include women’s role in the history of writing. Atwood includes countless...

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