The Handmaid's Tale

The Significance Of Identity In The Opening Chapters of 'The Handmaids Tale' 12th Grade

Whilst identity in the modern day setting is seen as a fundamental right, in the seemingly dystopian society of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, identity is robbed by the government to create a subservient society. As is common with totalitarian regimes, people are divided and oppressed to preserve the strict social hierarchy, yet those in power seem to neglect the basic fact that no regime can destroy essential humanity and the need to express individualism.

Atwood explores the theme of a forfeit of personal identity to show the reader the significance of these constraints. Through the handmaid's patronymic names, they no longer belong to themselves, but rather are the possessions of their Commanders: "Of-Fred", for example. The replacement of the handmaid's name once they move to a new posting after three failed attempts at bearing children show how easily names are changed in Gilead, a branding of the woman which amplifies the notion she has little to no control over who she is, and just like her name she can be substituted. Atwood implies that names are used to instate fear in people when Offred says: "She may be a true believer, a handmaid in more than name." These phrases imply that having this mentality is...

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