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Quests In The Handmaids Tale English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3684 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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While I was reading The Handmaid tale I noticed that Offred was the Quester. Throughout the novel Offred traces her heroine’s efforts to survive and tolerate her nightmare world of the Gilead society. Although she does not succeed to me she is an heroine.

A place to go for her would be, at first, Canada. It seems to be the place where Offred is going to, but suddenly she has been caught and forced to return to the Gilead. So her second place to go would be to the underground movement.

A stated reason to go to Canada is to escape from the dictatorial life in Gilead. Her reason to go to the Gilead is to be trained in the Red Center for her new role as Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead.

Her challenge and trials would be breaking some of the rules from the Gilead Republic. Although she is forced to work as a Handmaid and live in sexual oppression, she still fights against the system in the little ways that she can, for example her affair with Nick.

The real reason to go is giving her co-handmaids hope and encouraging them to be strong. Since many Handmaids do not reach the point where Offred came, (surviving instead of suicide; resisting instead of accepting).

The end of the novel is very ambiguous, I was left pondering on the question if, after all, death would have been better for her or not. Was she was finally rescued and reunited with her daughter? The fact that the ending is optimistic adds to the greatness of the book.

How-to Essay 2

Novel: The Handmaid Tale by Margaret Atwood

Symbolism in The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood uses the colours of the clothes to symbolises the social status of each character in the novel. In some way, all colours are related to the oppression, control and privileges in the Republic.

Starting with the red colour, which is the most predominant. All Handmaids wear red, as this colour symbolizes primarily their status as fertile women, and the blood of their menstruation and child birth. But in the novel red also suggests sufferers, death (executions) and prohibitions; the Handmaid’s had all kind of prohibitions like there were not allowed to work or to read. At one point Offred even says the following:

“(…)Everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us(…)” [1] 

The wives wore blue clothes, ironically red and blue are enemies colours this colour denotes their status as a superior member of the aristocracy. On the other hand, it also suggests the hostility between the commander’s wife and the Handmaid, for their adulteress.

Another significant colour in the novel is black; the commanders wore black, and they were driven in black cars, this colour represents their seriousness and their total authority. The Martha’s wore green. In many cultures green symbolises the nature. In this case The Martha’s were old and naturally infertile women.

The servants wore grey which symbolises a low status individualist and finally, the Aunts wore brown. This colour represents their crudeness. The aunts were the trainers of the Handmaids, their brown colour also symbolizes their dirty work: the running of the re-education centres with torture techniques and brain washing. If the handmaids behave badly the aunts were in charge of their punishment.

The novel uses more significant symbols, some quite noticeable and others not, but for to me the basic one was the use of colour. In the novel the colour represents who is who in the Gilead society and that is indispensable in understanding of the novel.

How-to Essay 3

Novel: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Christ Figure in The Handmaid Tale

While you don’t expect it in a novel like The Handmaid’s Tale, there are plenty of attributes to be found that fit the Christ Figure discussed in How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

In Agony, if there is anything Offred is – and not just her, all the handmaids as well – then it’s agony. Offred is under control with strict rules, and she suffers watching how the aunts punish or even kill if she or any handmaid defy the regime. Offred is also in agony when she thinks of her memories of her daughter and her happy past with Luke. She lives in constant agony thinking about what happened to her daughter and her agony is accentuated when Serena offers to show Offred a picture of her lost daughter.

Self-sacrificing, Offred had to sacrifice not only her body but also her mind. Offred sacrifices her spirit by being kept as a handmaid. She sacrificed her woman’s privileges and rights. She also sacrifices of her on safety in order to be with and help Nick.

Thirty-three years of age when last seen, the only information presented in the novel about Offred is when she describes herself as:

“(…)I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair. I stand five [feet] seven [inches] without shoes(…)” [2] 

Confrontation with the devil, in the book, Serena, the wife, is seen as the devil. Neither -Offred nor the Commander- likes her, or trusts her. Serena not only blackmailed Offred to have sex with Nick, (since she cannot get pregnant from de Commander), but she is also hurting Offred by showing a picture of her lost daughter. “The confrontation with de devil” will be when Serena “confronts” Offred with the discovery of lipstick on her veil and accuses Offred of being with the Commander. With cruel words, she sends Offred to her room, calling her a slut.

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Very forgiving, in the course of the story I can feel that Offred can be very forgiving, especially with the Commander. It seems to me that she forgives him all the rapes she had been endure since she is a Handmaid. I think she would not play scrabble and have this kind of ” friendship” with him if she would not forgive him, rather she would be anger and feel resentment with him and only would do her job as a handmaid.

Yes, she is a Christ figure , too…

How-to Essay 4

Novel: Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

The seasonal impact in Cat’s Eye

Canadian mentality is intimately connected to the nature and climate. Therefore outdoor activities are very important in Canadian life. The changing of seasons all over the year produces emotional changes. For example the fall has been always connected with melancholy specially when you see the yellow color on trees which gradually becomes brown.

Through the novel of Cat’s Eye, there are plenty aspects to be found that fit in the season figure discussed in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Throughout the novel we can see how Elaine’s mood changes during each season also how she described the months or season when the action takes place.

In the winter we can see how things start to go bad for Elaine like for example in the month of November when the darkness of the day starts early, Elaine is nine years old, Cordelia, Carol and Grace play a game in which involves burying Elaine in the hole of Cordelia’s backyard leaving her alone there. Since this incident Elaine lives in fears and waiting with anxiety the upcoming summer because this is the season when they all have vacation and they go outside Toronto. During the winter we can also see an exhausted Elaine, without the strength and mood even to paint.

When springs starts Elaine understands that the cat’s eye became more powerful and empowers her. We can see that when sometime in March Cordelia throws Elaine into a ravine. Elaine tries to save herself and she get paralyzed when a vision of the Virgin Mary frees her. At that moment she finds the power to get rid of her friends and find new ones.

During the summers Elaine remember having happy times in her childhood. She remember spending time with her parents and brother in the bush, collecting insects and having fun. This was also the period when she was far from her evil friends.

Seasons can be very symbolic, with all kind of variations and nuances. In this case for Elaine winter is darkness, fear, summer and spring are fun and freedom.

How-to Essay 5

Novel: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Penelope the heroine?

Penelope, the excellent archetype for loyalty, prudence and intelligence overwhelms us with the purely human and precarious about this character: twenty years waiting for the return of her husband Odysseus, crying her loneliness as a foreigner in Ithaca, being a housewife with more than fifty servants, taking care of the goods and lands of her family and finally exercising all its cunning to keep out a hundred suitors who wanted to take the place of Odysseus.

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As Atwood attempts by Penelope is that we see the other side of the coin without transposing the Homeric version, she emphasizes on certain nuances showing these ideal heroes not so virtuous and not so ideals. This is model case of Odysseus: twenty years of absence of his native Ithaca, spending half this time fighting in the Trojan War and another ten trying to return home, going through all kinds of adversity, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses. Famous for his cunning he returns home in camouflage to check the fidelity of his wife and maybe surprise the suitors who have invaded his home. Thanks to this surprise hit, he murders the 120 suitors and not happy at all with this result he also kills his twelve maids alleging to have betrayed him by sleeping with such pretenders without their consent.

And it is here where we question the heroism and courage of Odysseus. A man whom the gods would smile upon, the law protects him unconditionally and his wife and son are loyal to him. Born top succeed his father, King of Ithaca, Odysseus concentrates all the possible privileges in which the female subordination is not the smallest.

The real condition of Greek women was not very flattering: they had no participation in public life, remained outside the community at the same level of the children, foreigners and slaves, and while the adultery of women was not forgiven, it was natural considered for a man to share bed with other women. A very common practice was that the head of the house offered his female servants to his illustrious guests of the house as part of the hospitality after banquets. Such was the case of Penelope’s suitors, who have invaded her house in the absence of Odysseus, and took no consideration with abusing the house maids.

The great irony of this event is that Odysseus finds his honor dishonored because these maids have been raped by their guests without his approval, as we all know it was impossible to have his approval because of his long absence. Penelope does not come out of astonishment with such injustice, but as we have read, she can not oppose any resistance and wonders what sense all their sacrifices made over the years. It was obvious that Penelope could be acted as her cousin Helen, whose lascivious and vanity sent thousands of men to the war.

But no, Penelope decided to save the honor of her husband, to grow their own patrimony, by getting in front of their land and administered carefully her home pantries. But for what? Just to put a place in the story as the ideal woman’s archetype: faithful, loyal, intelligent, prudent and patient.

Analysis book 1

Novel: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

An Impossible World

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel about how The United States of America have overturned in the near future to a religious and macho system. In this system, fertile women are considered property of the state, for future perpetuation of the established order. Margaret Atwood describes a fictional world, but perhaps after all the reality is not so far from the world she described.

My first reaction after reading the novel was “This could never happen”. It is hard to believe a country like the USA will have reached a similar situation. It is obvious most of the situation described in the novel is or was present in some distant places on the planet. Since then most societies have suffered a brutal decline in respect of the rights of women. Therefore, the conclusion would be something like “This could not happen here”, but really at this point it is difficult to sustain such a claim.

In the state of Gilead maids form a social branch designed to conserve the species. Fertile women make up this class and are noted for the habit they wear (completely red). They play an essential role: to give birth to the future citizens of Gilead.

It is not easy to engender in such an anti-utopian world devastated by nuclear war, ruled by extremely severe and puritanical code – a code which punished everybody who departs from the system with the penalty of death – and where the majority of the population is sterile.

In a post-apocalyptic world healthy children are very limited, and fertile women are still a minority. Both become extremely precious. The former have value in themselves, the latter only if they have proven their ability to produce. All good little babies become a status symbol and therefore it is necessary to strictly regulate access to them. Moreover, it should not be allowed fertility to become a source of power for women who have it. It is used in a chain that links the survival . First measure, prevent women from paid work; second measure, strip them of all their assets (including of course the children); third measure, to prohibit them reading and writing as well as access to any data source; fourth measure, place them in facilities for education, for women only, where they can be protected from their greatest enemy, man, and where they can be instructed to carry out its sacred mission: to have children to ensure the survival of the species.

Any sexual act that does not have the sole purpose of reproduction is prohibited. A woman is faced with three alternatives: to become a wife, to join the cast of the maids (whose survival depends on the ability to procreate) or to be sent to camps for non-confinement women. The novel’s protagonist chooses the second option, is stripped of her name and becomes known as Offred, of Fred’s house. Fred is the name of the commander who she should serve, seeking to beget a son who will be given to Fred’s wife.

Because Offred is valuable for what she do, she will receive adequate food, will be allowed one day while walking always accompanied by another woman of the same breed and must be covered up and down a long red dress that identifies, her head covered with a broad preventing him from touching to watch and be watched.

Will face, like all women of their class to a mixture of envy, worship and contempt, fighting oppression, fear and the yearning for freedom, spurred on by memories of a past that was still open and from which could not imagine a future as she experiencing. There is always fear of failure and the treat of captivity on the island of useless women beings beyond the fences that surround the city and the high wall where they hang, to serve as example, the bodies of those rebels.

The Handmaid’s Tale is the testimony of one those “red figures” who roam Gilead. Offred recalls fragments of her past as was the USA and observes the individuals that surround it, and still retains the glowing ashes of rebellion in her mind and her body desire.

Anyway of course the novel is a fiction as such should be read and judged. In that sense the author is a good writer who has built a good novel, despite the argument that it is in somewhat obvious in its desire demands. The little ironic voice of Offred, who narrates the story in first person, the narrowing of scenes and characters, and especially some detail that punctuate the plot, get a piece of downright pleasant reading.

Analysis book 2

Novel: “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood

Child Cruelty

In this novel Atwood throws a look into the past and returns to the world of childhood, often labelled as a happy world, and does so to show the darker side: the destructive friendships of two nine years old girls. This novel reminds me that childhood is not always an idyllic time and that child cruelty exists.

After a long time of absence, the successful 50 years old painter, Elaine Risley, returns to her homeland Toronto, where she spent her early adolescence, to present a retrospective exhibition of her work. The exhibition gives way to a retrospective of her life, a journey into her past in Toronto where her destructive friendship with another girl named, Cordelia is highlighted.

The destructive friendship between Elaine and Cordelia, which lies at the heart of the novel, offers a cruel vision of childhood. The novel breaks the stereotypes that girls are sweet and cute and boys are rude and bullies. However, while boys establish friendship in a more clearway -the leader is always the biggest or the strongest or the best in games, the reason for girls to be respected are less clear. Boys discover that they have physically to fight, while girls (in most cases) use words. In this case their circle looks like a Renaissance court, with a struggle for the favoritism, secret whispers and gossip. The leading figure of the girls can change suddenly and, therefore, their lives in the group are less stable.

The chapters where Elaine is an adult are interspersed with those of her childhood. The life of Elaine is not a happy story. Most of her childhood toke place in a closed circle of “friends” in which Elaine was the weaker part and the object of disregard and contempt.

This novel is a magnificent portrait of bullies, that despite of the lies, is neither new nor more cruel today. I remember my days at school. When some guys shot the wall for not wanting to kiss the monster with a face full of pimples, when rude guys slap that wear guy that it also had the annoying habit of brutes, and the most common of all schools, the girl who sat alone on the steps of the courtyard.

Cat’s Eye has the unique ability to play these episodes of abuse, persecution and harassment all you want to call it we all committed, suffered or observed from a distance with a mixture of fear and shame that cause impotence in front of a big injustice. It happened in many paragraphs.

I think this is a true value of the book. It opens a door that seems forever be sealed. It happened in many chapters. Suddenly a story that led me to my own childhood and that developed in a parallel version of the story of Elaine and feel like writing your own biography. The friendship between Elaine and Cordelia offers a harsh vision of childhood. With this novel Atwood broke the cute and sweet stereotypes of girls and showed that girls can also become evil.

Analysis book 3

Novel: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Myth

The Penelopiad is a short story, very readable, original and skillfully presented, where we listened to Penelope to tell her so brief and tragical version of the events, how Telemachus hanged twelve young slaves for having allied themselves with enemies of his father. And, of course, different than the “official” story, hers is more juicy and entertaining. Her confidences are a “reckoning” with the true story and a vindication of the forgotten lives and outdated by the ambitions of the wars.

For me the author (Atwood) proves several merits. The first, her approach to the known characters from Greek mythology and literature, making them more real and credible people than the result of the classical texts. The second, to devise a singular storyteller, the wise Penelope, but from a more singular still, the Hades. Penelope is dead, but lives in her own way, a disembodied eternity since she has attended for three thousand years, changes in history to reach the present time. So Penelope is our contemporary and makes her look very close to us. While we regard the events of her life, served in her wandering in the Hades, where he meets other famous living dead with those who often talks interrupted conversations or never settled old disputes.

After more than three thousand years, Penelope has decided to speak, and bravely not without caution, told what she knew. Many gods and heroes, disgusted with her offensive story, looking for ways to make her pay. For fear that we the alive make certain questions such as:, was the great Odysseus the prudent and wise husband of Penelope or a cheat, liar and playboy crafty?

The beautiful Helena, was an innocent victim of her beauty or a coldhearted and frivolous woman who pins her happiness at being desired by all and have caused so many deaths? The young Telemachus, was this young man shy just defending the honor of the family or an arrogant teen who just wants his mother to die or go to his native Sparta? What would we think if we heard a rumor that in fact the episode of the Cyclops Polyphemus was not an altercation with a bartender eyed Ulysses? What if the sorceress Circe was not really, but a luxury whore took a fancy of the king of Ithaca?

Ithaca was a small island where the wind kept blowing, inhabited by ghost and rednecks disgraceful peasants, and not a fine court and a blessed land which hosted the fifth ten year old Penelope with open arms.


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