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Referat: The Handmaid's tale; Characterization of Offred

Alles zu Dystopian novel, Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid

Characterization: Offred


Offred is one of the handmaids who have been trained in the Red Center. She is 33 years old and has to wear an ankle-length red dress with white wings around the face and red shoes. She has long brown hair because handmaids are not allowed to cut it. Because handmaids must not use cosmetics Offred steals butter from the breakfast and uses it as lotion for her face. Her best friend is Moira who is a handmaid, too. They got to know each other at college and always stick together.
Her task as a handmaid is nothing more than to become pregnant by Fred and to serve as such as a kind of “birth-giving-machine”. But of course it all happens as a consequence of force so that the reader is confronted with a character exclusively suffering in her new miserable life as a handmaid according to an extremely bad mood of hers throughout the whole story.
First you can say that she feels lonely because in that new situation she is forced to live on her very own. Everyone of her family such as her daughter, husband and even mother has been taken away from her, so she is left in worries about her family` s unknown fate now. In contrast to her characteristic behavior in her former life as a loving mother, she has changed into a desperate and embittered person, not knowing what to expect of her future. Her whole lifestyle has changed into a life full of fear, namely fear of the aunts and guards, as well as of being observed and threatened by for example “pillboxe[es]” (p.31) with armed guards. But especially she is afraid of this life caged and suppressed by this society she will have to live in unfortunately.
This way of living, to be only exploited with regard to her body, and the degrading treatment she suffers from for example, make her devalue herself and think about herself as nothing more but a thing, a ridiculous “fairytale figure” (p.19) comparable to a “rat” used for experiments (p.79) and a woman belonging to the “harem” (p.79) of this foreign man. These depressive thoughts even seem to create a kind of bravery not to be afraid of murdering the guilty ones of such life to take revenge, which you can see from her wish to have a have a knife one (cf. p.57).
Nevertheless, Offred still seems to have kept a little ambition to survive this horror, which makes her a brave character, because although she is treated so inhumanly she insists on being a human being feeling “hunger to commit the act of touch” (p.21) or love generally speaking. These low living standards even seem to strengthen her character and to get to doing something. Without knowing any luxury before, she is aware of the smallest but even most important things in life to be happy about, such as the fact to be “alive” anyway (p.19) or to call something hers (cf. p. 59), which is a very rare gift in her life now. Although ordinary things she has done before in life seem to become more and more foreign to her (cf. p. 58), she turns out to be a quiet skilful woman who knows how to behave rightly (ability to speak without moving the lips) and survive with a few tricks (butter she uses to keep her skin smooth).
But all in all, you can say that it is the wish and hope to come together with her family one day again that makes her keep going on living like that and which clearly is the reason for her will to survive all the torture she suffers from.
Offred has not always lived in this situation. In the old society she was a young woman, who comes from a very strange household, which was managed by her crazy hippie mother. She learned very hard to get a good job. Later she had an affair with Luke, who meets her in hotels to spend a little time with her. You can say that the relationship with Luke influenced her life so much that her past can be characterized by her love to Luke. The affair turns to a happy marriage after Luke got divorced and they became parents of a little girl. The past of Offred can be described as a very intact time with good social relationships and a nice family background.
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The Handmaid's tale, Margaret Atwood, Characterization of Offred (743 Wörter)
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