The Handmaid’s Tale Is A Story About Power Do You Agree? The Handmaids Tale is a story about power Do you agree? As you read through the handmaids tale you see the relationships of the characters develop and the fight for power, however small that glimpse of power may be. The images of power can be seen through out the novel, but there are major parts that stand out to the reader from the aunts in the training centre to the secret meetings between the Commander and Offred. The first we see of the struggles of power between people is when the novel opens and we first see the aunts of the red centre with their electric cattle prods and their stern moral teaching and their stern looks. The aunts are given small amounts of power by the male dominated regime, like the ability to carry the cattle prods but no other weapons. No guns though, even they could not be trusted with guns.
Guns were for the guards This extract shows the us that even the Aunts with there limited power can not carry guns as the regime will not trust them with that amount of responsibility or power due to their gender, it is even remarkable that the aunts are given the little power that they have considering how the regime feels about the role of the woman in their society. This little amount of power gives the aunts the feeling that the are superior to the other women in the society it also allows them to push their views and opinions onto the handmaids that they are also entrusted to look after by the regime which from what we see they do well and try and treat the handmaids like daughters that they will punish if the women disobey any of the rules of the regime. As seen by the way they treat Moria after her first attempt to escape from the red centre. The aunts are also very confident within them selves and the position that they hold within Gilead this can be seen in chapter 43 wear the salvaging happens and one the aunts is able to control a whole group of handmaids at a blow of a whistle to kill someone. this is Atwood showing the power of the aunts at their most dangerous as they can control a group of people at blow of a whistle and therefore have total power over the handmaids and if they wanted to they may be able to turn on the male oppressors.
The next example of power within the regime is when we first meet Serena Joy at the front door of the Commanders house. Serena Joy displays her power by the way she looks at Offred when she arrives and then does not move aside to let Offred into the house. This is a display of power showing that this house is Serena Joys domain and everyone in the house must obey her and that she will not take any disobedience. Serena Joy is also able to beat her handmaid, but with out any implements, Offred tells us of how it is the wives right to beat the handmaids and yet if they kill or seriously injure them the wives can be put to death just as the handmaids or the other men can be; this can also be seen in the chapters on the salvaging as the first people who are executed are two handmaids for murdering or harming their Commanders or his family and the third person to be executed was a wife, Offred tells us that the only reason for her execution would be that she must of harmed her handmaid or her husband. For the wives there is not much power and therefore the affect of it on them is very little, the only affect is that they know they are better than the handmaids even if they have no power they know that they do not have to suffer the indignity of sleeping with a stranger and then to be looked down on by everyone with in the regime even the Marthas who are just glorified slaves to the households that they live in.
The novel shows Serena Joys struggle for power by the way that she contends with the other wives for the first to have a child and contends with Offred for the Commanders love, which he gives to Offred move than to his own wife. The people with the most power in Gilead is the men they are given positions of importance with the running of the regime, they are given guns and are able to kill anyone who they feel is a traitor to the cause. We see this in the Commander mainly before the ceremony when he makes the rest of the household wait for the bible reading until he comes in, but we also see a side of the Commander that he does not show often not even to his wife the side of him that is compassionate and caring and wants to help his handmaid. In the chapters about the ceremony the first event is a bible reading in which everyone must attend, they sit in the front room and wait for the Commander to enter and begin reading from the bible, this is another display of power as the females in the household are not allowed to read, write and so the bible is locked in a chest. In the pre-ceremony the other people must wait until the Commander comes and reads to them.
Through the whole novel you do not see how the power that the Commander has affects him, but what we do see is that he is unhappy with it and regrets some of the things that he has done in the past, we also see that the even though the Commander has power he does abuse it by seeing Offred in secret and then taking her to Jezebels for a night out. He also gives Offred magazines which is not allowed as see is not supposed to be reading. There is no display of a power struggle when it comes to the Commander as he is male and therefore people must respect him and obey him depending o his status within the regime. The only other character that has power is Offred. She does not have any power at the being of the novel of as the novel goes on she gains more confidence and therefore gets more power from things that the other characters do through out the novel.
There are three major events when Offred gains the power that she relies on by the end of the novel. The first event is when the Commander starts to invite Offred to his private quarters and they begin to have a friendly relationship where they talk and play games and read, the power that this gives Offred is that she has a hold over him as he not supposed to see her out side of the ceremony also she is able to convince him to allow her to read and he gives her small gifts that she has been craving since she was captured by the regime. This allows her to have some small piece of power that could destroy the Commander if Offred decided to tell the Eyes, this event allows Offred to gain some small amount of security within her life, she can now see the Commander in a different light and begins to feel sorry for him and especially for Serena Joy. The second event is when Offred walking partner Ofglen tells her that she is a member of the Mayday movement ( the underground resistance movement). This in its self was a dangerous thing for Ofglen to do as she could of been reported to the authorities for treason and executed after being interrogated by the secret police of the regime.
That piece of information could of given Offred the means to blackmail someone in her past life if it was treasonous and therefore she has power over yet another person, but she does not want to know this information as it could mean that she at any time could be arrested by the eyes and interrogated by them for information even though she does not know any more than that Ofglen is a member of the movement. We can see that Offred does not want this information and is scared of its consequences as see contemplates suicide after she hears that Ofglen had committed suicide before the eyes came for her and then Offred gave away that she knew of Ofglens treasury to the new Ofglen which meant that someone else had the power to kill if she wanted to. The third and final thing that gives Offred power is when Serena Joy suggested that she go to see Nick and sleep with him to get pregnant which is another thing that is illegal and therefore Offred could again turn Serena in and get her killed, but instead she goes along with it and then begins to have a intermit relationship with Nick and with that she gave up all her power to this man who she knew little about and knew all about the Commander and Serena and then about Ofglen. But all of the previously mentioned forms of Offreds power were not physical power. She also has the most physical power as she is the person who carries the baby and gets pregnant.
Then later in the novel after Serena suggests about seeing Nick. Offred is given a cigarette and then a match and with that match Offred could burn the house down killing the Commander and Serena and then trying to escape. She could burn herself so that she no longer has to live or suffer the indignity of being continually raped by this society. From the displays of power that have been shown through out this essay, we see that this story is a story about power. Power is the story is primarily about peoples need for some small amount of power to survive in life and to feel that hey have a purpose within their society which every society it may be whether its is Gilead or Nazi Germany or modern day Britain.