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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood based her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, off of the 17th-century American Puritan theocracy. Atwood wrote about what could happen if America were to return too it’s roots. This thought was provoked by the rocky political climate of the early eighties. The novel’s recent popularity is due to the rapidly declining state of America’s government and minorities fearing for their freedoms. In the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred’s motivation lies within her desire for freedom, as exemplified in her search for the freedom of opinion, the freedom of expression and the freedom of love.

Offred craves the freedom of opinion and she is fine with putting her life in danger to get it. This is made obvious in her interactions with Ofglen, Moira and the Commander. Offred’s relationship with Ofglen evolves into a very dangerous one. They share their opinions with each other freely, only when there is no one around and only in whispers, but without fear. They speak of rebellion and of escape, they speak ill of their Commanders and their Wives. They are able to share their opinions and it is what motivates Offred to start pushing the boundaries and to step over the line in the sand. One of the freedoms she craves is finally attainable. Additionally, Offred is able to be her true self around Moira, even in their new world. Moira, Offred’s childhood friend, has always been a safe place for Offred. She knows that her opinions are safe with Moira because Moira’s opinions are even more taboo, even more crude than Offred’s. There is something very freeing in hearing Moira talk crudely about various Commanders and Wives. The spark that Offred sees in Moira helps her to cope with the life she is being forced to live. She knows that if personalities like Moira’s can survive then she can too. On the other hand, Offred’s opinions are illegal. In many instances she has to physically bite her tongue or her cheek when she is speaking with the Commander. Her Commander is one of the men who created her new world and Offred has to be careful about what she says around him. Offred wants to be able to argue her opinion with the Commander and she does to some extent, but she hates that she always has to hold her tongue or risk having it cut out. However, it motivates her need for freedom. The more Offred speaks her mind with those she has deemed safe, the more she wants the freedom of opinion back. She’ll go to great lengths to get it.

The freedom to self expression has been stolen from Offred, she acts rashly in her pursuit to get it back. She is determined to get back the freedom to wear what she wants, to live how she wants and to be what she wants. In the summer months, Offred often thinks about what it used to be like to wear shorts and tank tops. Being forced to wear a long cotton dress in the middle of summer is not what Offred considers ideal. Occasionally, Offred will alter her dress so that it’s a little shorter or a little thinner. This is something that she knows is dangerous. When Offred is brought to Jezebel’s she has to wear a costume made of satin, she reminisces of when she took wearing various fabrics for granted and wonders when the last time she wore anything other than cotton was. These thoughts and memories provoke a need to be able to wear anything other than a red dress. She is motivated to leave the country if only so she can express herself freely once more. Moreover, Offred misses being able to live how she wants. She wants to be in control of what she eats and when, how she lives and where, what she does and how. Offred’s memories are full of small things like magazine stands and driving her daughter to school. Because Offred want the freedom to do what she likes she is motivated to save herself from living the rest of her life as a slave. Furthermore, Offred wants to choose how she spends her life. She is educated and has experience working with new technologies, she wants so much more than to just bare children. Offred used to be a woman who had hobbies and would go out with her friends. She wants the ability to choose what she does. This impacts her daily life; sometimes she’ll take too long

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