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Class Discrimination in Gilead Essay

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Marxist Literary Theory Question #1: Does the work reinforce capitalist, imperialist, or other classist values?
Thesis: In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood characterizes Handmaids, as women with expectations to obey the society’s hierarchy, as reproducers, symbolizing how inferior the Handmaid class is to others within Gilead; the class marginalization of Handmaids reveals the use of hierarchical control exerted to eliminate societal flaws among citizens.
Cora’s unpleasant reaction towards Offred, when she arrives at their home, represents how other classes automatically feel superior over Handmaids. When Offred walks in, she instantly is judged after she sees Cora “frowning...[Cora] tears out three tokens and hands them to [Offred]. [Cora’s] face might be kindly if she would smile. But, the frown isn’t personal: it’s the red dress she disapproves of, and what it stands for” (Atwood, 10). The tokens given to Offred symbolize the oppression of Handmaids throughout Gilead, since these women are handed money with no value. Granted, that the tokens have no worth outside of the imperialized area, this shows how women like Offred are looked at worthlessly. Handing out tokens instead of real money demonstrates how the government does not trust Handmaids; they believe these women will use legitimate money to escape Gilead, or rebel by accessing black market goods. With Handmaids associated with reproductive organs, and thought of as vessels for this process, the women wear red to exploit their societal intentions. Being that the color red symbolizes impregnation, it displays the advantage Handmaid’s attain over resentful women in society; this advantage is ironic due to the fact that higher classes in Gilead look down on Handmaids even though...


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... pre-Gilead, and is miserable within the society; this unhappiness is due to the fact that she is oppressed, does not have freedom, and cannot feel real love. The phrase wrapping is also symbolic, since it affiliates with the idea of a wrapped present; describing her organ like a red wrapped present establishes how Offred’s only goal is to become pregnant, avoid miscarriage, and carry on her job as a Handmaid. Plus, describing her body part within wrapping connotes the nastiness of men; Offred and other women believe men only desire sexual satisfaction. With hierarchical figures in Gilead forcing Handmaids to wear concealing red dresses, this expresses how these women are isolated by higher class citizens who reinforce that a Handmaid’s job is only to procreate, and exaggerate the importance of pleasure-less reproduction.



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The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood


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