A Comparison of The Handmaid's Tale and Anthem


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A Comparison of The Handmaid's Tale and Anthem

 

      The two novels, The Handmaid's Tale and Anthem, are both haunting, first

person tales of personal hardship in a closed and controlled society.  In this

essay I will point out similarities and differences between the

two books.  There are similarities in the setting of each work, and the between the two societies in

which the stories take place, as well as more important differences between the

main characters.

 

      To start I would like to compare the settings of the two books.  In

Anthem the story takes place sometime in the future after some catastrophic

event.  Apparently society as we know it was destroyed and the leaders that were

left decided that the problem was the individual, that all men are equal in all

things and that anything that is created by one person is evil. This train of

thought is carried to such and extreme that the very word "I" is removed from

their vocabulary.  An example of this is found when the main character,

Equality-1329, re-invents the electric light.  He shows his invention to the

scientist and although this invention could improve the quality of life of the

people it is deemed "evil" because he worked on his project alone.  The society

in this book is also strict and authoritarian to the point of dictating what

your job will be, to whom you will have children with.

 

      In The Handmaid's Tale the story takes place sometime in the near future

after some kind environmental catastrophe that makes it impossible for most

women to have children.  To solve this problem some radicals set off a nuclear

bomb in Washington during a full session of congress and then declare marshal

law.  They then systematically took all rights away from women and forced the

ones that could have children into camps where they would be contracted out to

powerful ranking officials to have their children.  These women are referred too

as "handmaids."

 

      Next, I would like to discuss the main characters, in The Handmaid's

Tale and in Anthem.  In both books the main characters are basically nameless

people, in The Handmaid's Tale we never learn the name of the main character,

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because she always refers to herself as "I" and the other characters in the book

refer to her with a generic title for her position as a handmaid.  In Anthem the

main character does not have the word I in his vocabulary so he either refers to

himself as Equality-1329, or as "we."

 

      As far as physical appearance goes, in Anthem the main character is a

man who seems to be in good heath since he has a job as a street sweeper and he

is able to preform his duties well.  Later in the book he finds a mirror, and he

describes himself as beautiful."  He also seems to be of good intelligence

because he describes his experience in school as easy and boring, and he said

that he understood more that the teachers.  In Handmaid's Tale the main

character is a woman of who seems to be mildly attractive since she acquires the

interest of several men in the story.  She also seems to be fairly intelligent

because she said that she had taken several college courses.  Although both

characters are both apparently in good health and both are intelligent, but they

have very different personalities and personal goals.

 

      In Anthem the main character is pro-active, he sees that there are

problems with the society that he lives in and he tries to change it.  He

discovers a secret place where he can go and do scientific research and he re-

invents the electric light.  He shows his invention at a convention of

scientists, and when his ideas are rejected he is strong enough to realize that

it is he, the individual that is right, and not society, he then runs away into

the wilderness in hopes of starting his own new society.   The main character in

The Handmaid's Tale is less of a pro-active person she knows that her society is

flawed, and she tells the reader that she does not like her life yet she does

nothing about it.  The high ranking general that she is "handmaid" for takes her

into a position of confidence, and rather than use her position to affect

positive change she squanders it on cheap pleasures such as asking for a

magazine to read, and playing bored games.

 

      In ending I would like to say that although both characters live in

similar controlling societies, I like the one in Anthem the best because he was

pro-active and he did something about his surroundings rather than just accept

what was and go on.


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