The Handmaid’s tale - Sample Essay
The primary difference between Winston Smith and Offred is how Winston has no clarity in his memories of the past but is determined to defy his present system and find a following whereas Offred remembers all and is thus inspired to break from her society for her own sake. Orwell and Atwood both include flashbacks where Winston and Offred compare their former lives. The general sense of fear is embodied in 1984: “people who had grown up in the revolution, knew nothing else, accepting the party as something unalterable. ”
Concerning the younger generation, Offred fears for her daughter, indoctrinated by another family and Winston finds no intellectual companion in Julia, 15 years his junior. Winston’s desperate attempts to connect with the elderly prole on general life before the revolution contrasts Offred’s main concern to find her daughter. It illustrates 1984’s INGSOC’s paradoxical idea of placing oneself at the centre of the universe to achieve greater good for everyone. Offred is comparable to Julia in their need to survive rather than possessing an ulterior motive. Neither women are political nor have a plan for change.
In the Historical Notes, Offred apologises: “I’m sorry its in fragments like a body like a body being caught in a crossfire” Offred’s plain desire to survive is channeled through private rebellion to ease her pain in a “mutilated story”, reflecting the structure of the story. She has no systematic plan yet her intelligence stated as is Winston’s, the conspicuous difference is how men are not being singled out for oppression in 1984. It is sexual unity in general that is dangerous – “forming loyalties” dangerous to the Oceanic regime so Winston can break more general rules.
Whereas in The Handmaid’s Tale, women are the target of repression and whilst sexual unity is dangerous, for Offred, in Gileadean society, women must remain subservient to survive which is a more difficult feat. Offred merely wants to make bearable to herself as a female, how it once was, rather than alter it altogether. Winston and Offred dream mainly of their families yet Winston with childhood regret and Offred with yearning regret. Winston sees his mother and sister: “… In the saloon of a sinking ship. Looking up at him through the darkening water. ”
Although not as intimate as those of Offred, Winston’s dreams still disturb him and begin to make him despise the party for rewriting history. With Winston’s dwindling memories, Offred’s remembrances create desire and longing, with recurring instances with her family: “Lying in bed, with Luke, his hand around my belly. The three of us. Luke’s hand is so comforting I can still feel his touch. ” For Offred the flashbacks interrupt her present thoughts nostalgically providing escapism. However, her instinct for physical pleasure overpowers that of her love for Luke.
Analysing the torpor that immobilizes the spirit of Gilead, Offred concludes, “Nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from. ” Her mental anguish repeatedly frames her imagined pictures of Luke5 hence moving towards Nick for “old sex”. As part of obliterating the former world Winston must toil in his job translating ‘Old speak’ to ‘Newspeak’. Like Offred powerless to her ‘new sex’, he is powerless to “Newspeak” but will both seize opportunities to learn more about their situation. However, this is where the sharp contrast between Offred and Winston arises.
Offred is more cautious in her plight for survival, yet Winston is more fatalistic, which will help to ultimately underscore the Party’s devastating power. As “he knew sooner or later he would obey O’Brien’s command”. Upon hearing of the Brotherhood “it reassured him. In a sense it had told them nothing new, but that was part of the attraction. ” His confession to O’Brien of all the atrocities he had done and was willing to commit, emerged from a hysteria, where he could share all his discontent and fear. However, there was no contingency plan and it appears he was resigning himself to fate all along.
Offred finds the knowledge relevant to her in the magazines and novels provided by the Commander: “I read quickly, voraciously, almost skimming, trying to get as much into my head as possible before the next long starvation. If it were eating it would be gluttony of the famished, if it were sex it would be swift and fertile stand-up in an ally somewhere. ” The information from all accessible media allowed her a step in the direction of recreating the past whereas Winston is trying to overcome the present through a method he hopes to find in Goldstein’s book.
The allure of all the knowledge provides optimism and is a solid reminder of history which as stated in 1984 is in “records… written down…. in the human memory” which neither characters had surrendered to their society. So as long as they do not surrender this idea will apply to anyone with means to pass on their message -“Those who control the past, control the future: who controls the present controls the past. ” By attempting to suppress feelings and beliefs of individuals, instinctively as humans, we have limited resources to control ourselves.
According to researchers; all acts of control draw from one source. So when using this resource in one domain, such as dieting, we are more likely to run out of it in another domain, such as studying. Once these resources run out, our self-control ability is diminished. 6 This idea, applied to Offred, justifies her involvement with Nick. As she controls her feelings in a new subservience for men, it becomes difficult to control her sexual desire, something she misses the most from her past.
She feels the “safety” of Nick and the memory of Luke starts to “fade”. Like Winston, the torture he is subjected to, forcing him to concentrate to the point of believing that 2 + 2 = 5. He’s allowing his torturers power over what is completely self-evident and fundamental to rational thought, forcing him to surrender his previously determined stance of allegiance to Julia-“Don’t do it to me, do it to Julia instead. ” Kidnapped by two members of the ‘Eyes’ smuggled out of Gilead, under Nick’s control, Offred questions:
“Whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing. I have given myself over to the hands of strangers. ” Similar to Winston, Offred places their lives in the hands of others to determine their fate. Winston however left brainwashed, leaves the reader to discern his true sentiments, finishing on “I love Big Brother. ” We do not know what her fate was yet I The Historical Notes, we learn that Offred’s tale is now a point of study in a modern university, so we are led to believe her cautious laissez faire tactics helped her survive.
In conclusion, both Offred and Winston were created to reflect Orwell and Atwood’s critique of society, yet with different issues facing them, Orwell’s being totalitarianism, imperialism, unending war and sexuality, whilst Atwood’s involved sexual harassment, political ignorance, racial, religious discrimination and fundamentalism. Offred’s character lets the reader somewhat down with her marginalisation of describing events. Her inability to live in the moment to rebel, rather than being controlled by her past never lets the reader break the wall of privacy she builds up, as we follow the novel through her eyes.
With her limited choices as a woman, she is afraid to push the boundaries so, as not to undermine her desire to live, until the very end where she surrenders herself to Nick’s will. It seems as though the whole novel is spent acting cautious and the end results in either her assumed swift escape or more unlikely downfall. However, one still feels sympathy towards her, still admiring her ability to suppress her humanity in such a brutal regime, imposed so late in her lifetime, and her endurance to disconnect her mind from body.
On the other hand, Winston’s strongest attribute is his desire to rebel. Being amongst the generation that is old enough to remember a different past gives him the motivation to strive for something that he is able to comprehend as attainable. His optimism yet paranoia of the Party catching up with him create hurdles, forcing him to doubt himself, leading to his demise. The most heart rendering aspect of Winston’s character is his desperation to find a soul – mate that shares in his ideals.
In totalitarian societies, the innate and dynamic instincts for survival always triumph so as readers, it is impossible to make a moral judgement on either character, in retrospect, questioning or criticising their actions. Orwell and Atwood chose to create characters of ordinary people demonstrating how life affected them when politics magnified its control and both provide strong characters who communicate their intended messages powerfully and uniquely. 1 Cf.
Ansgar Ni?? nning, “Literatur ist, wenn das Lesen wieder Spai??macht”, Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht 31, Heft 27 (1997), p. 6. 2 12 Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, Penguin, 2004, 1984. See also Ed Husain, The Islamist, Penguin, 2007 3 Michael Sherborne, York Notes Advanced, Nineteen Eight Four, Longman, York Press, 2003 4 Primo Levi, If This Is A Man/The Truce, Abacus, 2006 5 http://education. yahoo. com/homework_help/cliffsnotes/the_handmaids_tale/28. html 6 When our vices get the better of us, Oct. 11, 2007Courtesy Association for Psychological Science and World Science staff Mariella de Souza 13DGJ.