a. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are objectified and controlled through religious, political, physical, and psychological ideas and actions.
b. Borrowing heavily from the Puritan denomination of Christianity, Atwood uses the elements of body denial and the patriarchal oppression of women to control and objectify them. Likewise, the socio-political system is such that women have lost all rights and most freedoms, and society has become a caste system based on fertility and power. Women are physically restrained and abused, and sexuality is reduced to culturally endorsed rape. Psychologically, women are alienated from their bodies and senses of selves, and some women are encouraged to be part of the system.
a. The religious content in the book is modeled after the Puritan movement, a particularly patriarchal and anti-sexual strain of Christianity.
b. This religious movement treats women’s bodies as unholy objects that are useful for one purpose of reproduction in a controlled context.
c. The religion s intolerant, creating a social and racial purity that prevents women from knowing a multitude of experience.
d. By keeping the cultural-religious nation ethnically and ideologically homogenous, it becomes difficult for women to compare their existence to any other.
a. Women are given no political right and have a specific form of education and engagement with the world that limits their power and senses of self.
b. Controlling the education and political and social voice of women means controlling their identities and bodies.
c. Radical feminism as an ideology is too extreme and results in the same control over women’s bodies.
d. Just as the extreme patriarchal culture of sexuality and women’s subhuman status limits the expression of individuality and freedom, so too does the extreme leftist position, which makes taboo the practices and behaviors it does not like, therefore controlling women’s bodies.
e. Women are physically restrained, controlled, and punished.
f. No form of control is quite as intimate and corporeal as physical control. Each moment of physicality inflicted upon the characters develops the theme through their rebellion or acquiescence to it.
g. Physical space is very important as a metaphor to show the control of women’s body in the public and private space.
h. Atwood uses a lot of good physical details to depict spaces that feel confined, altered, subverted, and constrictive of both body and soul.
i. Some women, such as the Aunts and Wives, hold a small position of power so long as they maintain the system that disempowers all women.
j. Both characters Aunt Lydia and Serena Joy develop the theme through their actions and points of view that are interesting and different from Offred’s.
k. Offred feels disconnected from her body and her previous life because of her psychological and emotional traumas.
l. Offred is living a dehumanized existence, and she often has difficulty recounting her former life or her daughter, which manifests itself physically and behaviorally. This type of alienation is indicative of the emotional and psychological trauma Offred, and other women like her, have endured as Gilead emerged.