(1). Outline how the state of Gilead came to be and (2). Compare Offred’s present disempowerment to her past freedom. Chart the details of Offred’s experiences, documenting the ways in which the regime dispossessed its citizens of power over time.
- It is stated that the whole government was gunned down in the coup, and this was blamed on Islamic terrorist extremists. Perhaps a form of scapegoating – people did not even go and protest (in the beginning). Shows how it is not just a singular event – the rise/coup is a culmination of many things over time.
- One of the first things that happen to Offred during Gilead’s rise is the limit of her economic freedoms. Out of the blue, her credit card was declined and all the women at Offred’s work were fired. “It’s outrageous, one woman said, but without belief. What was it about this that made us feel we deserved it?” (Chapter 28). Essentially, the collective firing of all women (not individuals) justifies it – suggests that the regime is doing what is right – not what suits them. It is consistent and convincing. Such dominant discourse/ideology/rhetoric is hard to resist; women begin to internalise it.
- The economic restriction of women has, historically, been used to limit their more general freedoms. The shopkeeper in the shop who explains why Offred’s card was declined is derisive towards her; he has power over her now – which is perhaps a sign of what to come.
- People also began to conform to the roles the regime gave them – Luke has been given a new role in the domestic sphere, to look after Offred. It’s done out of love but she finds it patronising, and the balance of power has shifted in their relationship. He has, unintentionally and indirectly, become an instrument of the regime (fulfilling the regime’s ideology in the household).
- Atwood’s depiction of Offred’s mother is perhaps a suggestion of the importance of knowing history (the ignorance of which leads to social problems). When Gilead first took power, people were not so aware of what was happening. They knew but they didn’t realise what it meant.