Women are not to establish friendships in the society of Gilead because it could give them the chance to have power of some sort which would be too much of a risk for Gilead.
The handmaids and the Aunts have only a teacher-pupil relationship and not all a mother-daughter relationship which some readers may believe could of happened due to the name ‘Aunt’ which usually refers to a nice caring middle aged woman but in Gilead that is not the case, the Aunts show that they are a true believer of the new system and devote themselves entirely to it by teaching the handmaids this new way of life and because of this the handmaids cannot form a friendship with the Aunts.
As for the relationship between a Handmaid and the Commander’s wife this is clearly an impossible one to achieve there is too much tension between them as it is the handmaid who is a younger fertile woman who has to sleep with the commander while the wife is present who is reminded that she is no longer fertile and is much older than the handmaids. Aunt Lydia explains just how the wife must be feeling “Of course they will resent you.
It’s only natural” when Offred first meets Serena, Serena clearly expresses that she doesn’t want her to be there and goes on to tell Offred that her husband is her husband and that she wants to see her as little as possible this shows just how awkward it would be to attempt a friendship with the wives. It is also clear that the Marthas do not like the handmaids and their roles, Rita believes that it is ‘debasing’ and that the Handmaids have the choice, the choice to go and die in the colonies with the unwomen.
It can be said that the Marthas may be jealous of the roles of the Handmaids, however the Marthas are not allowed to ‘fraternise’ with the Handmaids. The only time readers may believe a relationship could occur is between the Handmaids themselves this could be because they are all in the same boat, they are being used for their ability to reproduce and forced to forget their lives in the time before.
Although the Handmaids do get a chance to be alone with one another when they go shopping, but they must stick to a structured conversation with the regime has made up such as “Blessed be the fruit” and the response to this is “May the Lord open” the Handmaids would be too afraid to subvert against these phrases ” The truth is that she is my spy, as I am hers. ” If it was known that one of the Handmaids was against the system of Gilead it would be publicly known and the handmaid would be punished severely so it is hard to know how the other handmaid feels about the society.
Another reason why is would be difficult to form a friendship with another Handmaid is due to the jealously they feel between each other as they all wonder if the others have conceived and they all stare wondrously at a handmaid with a swelling stomach as Offred describes when they see Ofwarren ” She is a magic presence to us an object of envy” this is more like a professional envy than a personal one because Ofwarren has done her job. The birth sequence is seen to be an important section in this novel as it is near the centre it shows that the theme of reproduction is very important.
Offred is extremely excited when the birth mobile arrives this is shown through her quick and short sentences with many commas showing us a quickened pace which reflects her excitement. The actual birth itself is natural with no help of drugs present, as this regime relies heavily on biblical ways to justify this system. The use of a natural birth could reflect the pain that Eve was given during her birth as a punishment for eating the forbidden fruit. So the natural birth reminds women of their original sins of the time before and this again shows the patriarchal control over the women in this society.
Using a handmaid as the main narrator of the novel I s a useful and helpful feminist tool because if the novel centred mostly around the men such as the Commander of Nick then the theme of feminism wouldn’t be as strong so having Offred strengthens this. The purpose of Moira and Offred’s mother is to show two different feminists they refused to become passive to the system and accept what was happening to them unlike Offred. Moira was a strong character who refused to become a handmaid and follow the rules of Gilead. Unlike the other women Moira’s true identity was kept throughout the novel.
To Offred Moira is the female rebel hero who represents hope and saviour for her as she does things that other females are just too scared to attempt but to Gilead Moira is nothing more then a barren female with criminal issues. Atwood represents Moira as the other type of feminist who was a lesbian and who strongly thought that men were the enemy, like Offred’s mother she was aware politically about her rights as a woman, however she didn’t feel she needed to go to extreme length to fight for her rights and be heard unlike Offred’s mother.
Moira thought it was more important to be loyal to other women and be aware of your rights as a woman. A different type of feminist is Offred’s mother who went to extremes such as going to rallies and burning pornography who fought for women’s sexual and social freedom. She too had a feisty strong willed personality like Moira and refused to conform to Gilead’s way of life that she became an un-woman and was sent to the colonies. Offred speaks to her mother “You wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one.
” Her life of fighting for the rights of women has been remembered and even used but maybe not in a way she may of wanted actually it’s completely opposite to what Offred’s mother fought for.. All her effort in fighting for women’s right to freedom and refusing to follow the structured rules of Gilead have lead her to being trapped in the colonies, this is the same for Moira although they have both openly expressed their rebellion but she has become a prostitute for the commanders so she still is trapped within the society.
Gilead has created a ‘woman’s culture’ which is justified by emphasising the importance of motherhood , the appreciation of this gift of motherhood has been manipulated to create the motivation of this women’s movement. The feminist movement in the time before could be said to have helped contribute to the rise to the society of Gilead.
Offred’s mother had taken part in activities such as campaigning against the use of pornography or raiding the beauty pageants because they thought that these were degrading to women and that they needed more protection from violence and rape and by protesting against these they are agreeing with the censorship that women need and the protection that the deserve. Gilead fulfils all of these wishes; they have a separate cultures for men and women, women are valued, women are protected against rape and any violence and they are banished against pornography and any cosmetics being used on them.
Atwood sends out a warning to the readers that this idea of the need to protect women could be dangerous, in the handmaids tale the society has the view that a woman’s place is in the home and that her purpose in life is to just reproduce this gives us an idea that the men could behave like this in real life if given the chance to have the power and control even though the language used is seen as feminism but the whole society is a patriarchal system.
Another message though that Atwood could be saying is that women are much more than just a ‘womb’ and a slave around the house and that they are lacking in the recognition that they deserve, so Atwood warns what could be lost if the feminist movement did fail so Atwood wants women to make a change to their society for the benefit of the future generations, but do be careful with the notion of women needing to be ‘protected’ because it could be taken in a way that they didn’t intend.