The Lack of Hero in the Dystopian Novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

When one imagines the typical dystopian novel, the generally contains image contains escapeless suffering and despair, with one hero or cause trying to turn over the oppression. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is plentiful in the first, but lacks the latter. A patriarchal, totalitarian society full of strict laws and rigid class structures must have some sort of glimmer of hope for redemption, or else why would it be written about? But Offred, our narrator, is no hero. She merely rides the current, never opposes it The narrator musters enough courage to attempt an escape once, but when her plight is squashed and she is turned into Offred, her spirit never recovers, As Offred continues relaying her stream of consciousness, her thoughts never change.

Most normal human beings would not have to courage to rise up against such an oppressive and authoritative regime such as the Republic of Gilead, Offred is not abnormal in this, but she does not even internally develop a more rebellious psyche.

Atwood purposefully creates a character that does not swim, but lets the current of Gilead carry her through her life to demonstrate the reality of what oppression does to the human mind Offred begins the story with small, flickering light inside of her; she flirts with a Guardian by making eye contact, but engages no further. Just before that, Nick, whom she develops with later in the novel, winks at her but she simply raises her wing so he cannot see her face.

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Offred is clearly not completely passive, but she has very litLle in her ready to push back against the authorities. Her thoughts only consist of hypothetical scenarios that she would never act on, such as with the Guardian: “What if I were to come back at night, when he’s on duty alone — though he would never be allowed such solitude — and permit him beyond my white wings?”

But she is not one of action. Later when the Japanese tourists ask if they are happy, Ofglen has the courage to stay silent and signal a no, but Offred is so afraid that she says, “Yes we are very happy,” thinking, “I have to say something, What else can I say?” She even tries to justify her lack of action by telling herself there is no other way. As we move on in the book, Offred’s attitude does not change She only reveals herself more as almost indifferent toward the regime. When she and Ofglen visit the wall, instead of feeling rage and sorrow for those who were executed she feels “blankness” and “relief, because none of these men is Luke.”

There is a brief moment of hope when we see that Offred steals butter from the kitchen and a daffodil from the flower arrangement, which is further strengthened when she kisses Nick, but her opposing ways soon subside when her relationship with the Commander beginst She continues to let Gilead, in this case represented by the Commander, steer her life. She has no choice but to go along with all the Commander asks of her, even if it means risking her own life to see him and play scrabble. She does not even display a glimmer of opposition when the Commander wants to have sex with her or when he asks her to kiss him. At the very end of the book, Offred has an enormously eventful dayt Ofglen had committed suicide, an event that puts Offred into state of complete obedience. One not too much more subdued than her initial state: Dear God, I think, I will do anything you like. Now that you’ve let me off, I’ll obliterate myself, if that’s what you really want; I‘ll empty myself, truly, become a chalice, I’ll give up Nick, I’ll forget about others, I‘ll stop complaining I’ll accept my lot. I’ll sacrifice. I‘ll repent. I’ll abdicate. I‘ll renounce.

After Serena confronts her about her outing with the Commander, she contemplates burning the house down and suicide. She also contemplates waiting there until Serena comes and kills her. But she is unable to act. She cannot even decide she wants to do nothing and wait to be killed, Eventually the Eyes come to get her, and she feels regret for not doing anything, regret that indicates a larger one than of her lack of action in the past hours, but rather regret for her lack of action since the Republic of Gilead was established. It is later revealed that Nick is an Eye and in Mayday, so it is unclear what happens of Offred after she is taken away, Regardless of the actual outcome, it is important to note that the outcome is simply chance. Offred has been passive throughout the novel and leaves the home of the Commander remaining passive. Her character has very marginally fluctuated, starting as a selfish, scared, and to some extent very much normal character, and finishing in that same personal.

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The Lack of Hero in the Dystopian Novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from

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