Gillead A Credible Society Essay Research Paper

Gillead: A Credible Society? Essay, Research Paper

Gilead: A Credible Society

In Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, a society whose purposes are functional and practical roles is depicted. In Atwood’s eyes, a society like Gilead’s was perfectly credible, and in many ways I agree with her. The purpose of writing about such a radical society is not for one to panic into thinking that this could happen any time, nor is it for one to completely discard the idea. Instead, it’s purpose is solely to warn us of the dangers already present in our own society, such as the uncontrollable violence that is going on, apparent on crimes, wars, racism, etc.

Offred, the narrator, tells us about a society which came into existence in the early 80’s as a direct consequence of overlooking the many problems in its previous society. Before the first steps were being taken to actually destroy the society that few knew was already on the edge of becoming anarchical, there was foreshadowing of what would happen right beneath the eyes of everyone. Riots were going on all the time, people were vanishing, and later women lost their jobs and their money. All these things happened without people’s objections, because they were simply ignoring it, possibly hoping that it could not get worst. As Offred later describes how they faced up to those problems, “We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it” (74). This quote described what people did when they were fearsome of something, which they had already permitted to become the usual, bothered them. Ignoring what one fears makes that thing seem normal, and usually one becomes less afraid of things as they become normal. However, if things are ignored to an extreme and one does not care to draw the line, things can get out of hand when it is already too late. Offred regrets having been like the rest of the society that was banished, because looking back, what was happening then was in fact foreshadowing the future,

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, . . . The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others . . . they were awful without being believable. . . . they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. . . . We lived the gaps between the stories. (74)

As Offred described above, the problems were obvious. The fact was that no one wanted to admit to these problems. What she says above also goes for our present society, for we too, tend to make things as though they are a reality apart from ours and cut the line that holds the two together.

Things like the Compucards that got out of control, (as our credit cards could easily do the same), and the discrete way in which the government was overthrown, are actually quite feasible ideas. All these assumptions could perfectly happen in our society, not only Offred’s. When people are too scared they rather save their lives then open their eyes and see what is really taking place. The difference between us is still, fortunately, the fact that we still react to some things, while what brought them down was their conformity. Nevertheless, there times that we react when something that is extremely outrageous happens, and that usually takes place when we are involved. The fact that there is only violence on the newspapers nowadays seem to me not as a way of protesting, it just makes people get more and more used and conformed to what is really happening. If we ignore what we come to believe is not so unusual, then it will probably be too late for us to regret not having done something.

What the society preceding Gilead changed into, is the part of the story which I do not find so credible. It seems impossible that anyone, during any period of time, would ever want to lose their rights to be human. They had no freedom to read, walk, talk, love, need or feel. They switched from being a people who could use power to attain freedom, to people who had no freedom to attain power. Actually, freedom and power are exactly what Gilead did not have. As Offred came once from her daily walk with her “twin,” she looked at the bodies hanging on the Wall and mentioned what she felt as “. . . blankness. What I feel is that I must not feel” (44). However, it was not as if people who occupied higher ranks than she did possessed the right to feel which had been neglected to her. In this society, everybody controlled everybody, so that each individual had their own practical function in the system, preventing anyone from having power. An example of this is how Offred’s function is seen through her own eyes. As she was taking a bath and noticed the tattoo that had been made on her ankle to guarantee that her function is not forgotten by others, she thinks to herself, “I am too important, too scarce, for that. I’m a national resource” (85). This is what everyone is in Gilead, a resource, and Offred is possibly the most important.

Obviously, there are differences in our present society to the one preceding Gilead. Presently, our government could never be overthrown without millions of Americans crying out. Nor would it be possible that someone kill the president by simply entering his house. The problem is that these differences mean little when there are also many similarities. The purpose Atwood saw in her book is to warn us of our own dangers, not to compare them to a fictitious story and keep ignoring things. As I said before, I do not think we will ever have such an awful transformation in our lives, but I do not think something similar is impossible to occur. Because we are all being blind, like the other society was blind, and we ignore things like violence, we are building ourselves a path with no solid foundations. If we continue doing so, the tendency is for this path to fall apart. Even if this actually happened, it does not necessarily mean that we would have to give in to losing what is ours by all rights. Nevertheless, if we fall in a trend where everything is so casual that we ignore what is going on, something else could happen where we could forget to draw the limit and make it stop, as the society preceding Gilead did.


Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 28th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991.



Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 28th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991.


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