Medea and The Handmaid’s Tale Comparison

Explore the presentation and significance of jealousy in at least two works you have studied.

Jealousy is a significant theme in Medea and The Handmaid’s Tale as both texts explore the universal scope of humanity. Medea’s revenge is partially driven by her jealousy towards the princess as her husband had cheated on her; whereby jealousy is also common among the handmaid especially when they see Jenny became pregnant since they were almost like competing on their ability to reproduce.

In Medea, although she didn’t explicitly mention jealousy, we can feel a strong sense of this through the context of her being abandoned by Jason whilst Jason plans to marry the princess.  She also had a proud family background, but she left all of it behind just to marry Jason because she believed that marriage matters more than anything. However, the reality didn’t match her expectations. Therefore, it could be said that Medea’ revenge is strongly evoked by her jealousy. We can see how Euripides portrayed  Medea as an almost crazy woman who is always exhausted with hatred and being emotionally unstable. This indirectly suggests how jealousy has played a crucial role in forming her craziness and mental struggles.

Jealousy is portrayed more explicitly in The Handmaid’s Tale, with the common objective on people’s reproductive ability. Firstly, within the group of handmaids, they’re jealous of each other based on whether or not they’re pregnant. When Jenny is announced to be pregnant, all the handmaids and wives gather around in her house: She doesn’t have to move to get anything by herself, as others will always do whatever she wants, almost like worshiping her. Although the handmaids seem to solidify together and empathize with her, they indeed talk behind her back of how they wish they could be the ones who are pregnant, because giving birth represents a sacred duty for the handmaids and is the only way for them to get rid of their meaningless lives. Besides, we can also see jealousy in each commander’s house – between the wives and the handmaids. There’s an interesting relationship between the commander’s wife and Offred, that when they first met, the commander’s wife directly reveals her dislike and despise towards Offred, which immediately presents an opposing relationship to the audience. This suggests that although the wives have extraordinary power, they’re never happy in their lives because they’re also restricted under the regime. This is again emphasized in the “ceremony” scene, where the wives must bear the handmaids to have sex with their husbands meanwhile watching it and pretending to be enjoyed in it. This is unfair to both the handmaids and the wives. They each have their own duty that society forced them onto, which they couldn’t shake off, so they are jealous of each other for having what they couldn’t have.

In general, jealousy is presented in both texts as a universal theme to explore humanity. It has been a powerful element to impact the characters’ personalities and decisions, which thereby shaped their fate.

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