What is the significance of the information the Nurse gives the audience? How does it influence our impressions of Medea’s character before we see her?
The nurse sets the scene for the audience and gives context to better understand the scene. This makes us think about Medea and that maybe she might be overreacting. The nurse portrays her as being overly dramatic comparing her current state, to many things in the past that would be considered worse to where she is at now. This creates the idea that maybe Medea is a “drama queen” as she exaggerates the size of this problem. However, Medea is also human and seems to be a very passionate woman, this is shown in her obsessive nature towards Jason and how much she thought she loved him. Therefore, this creates the initial impression that she might be annoying to talk to as she is overly obsessed with this idea of love and trust towards Jason.
How does The Chorus develop the detail and themes outlined in the Prologue? What dramatic effect is created? How does Medea characterise her suffering to the audience in her initial address?
The characters do not talk to or meet Medea until later on in the scene. The Chorus highlights the idea that Medea is overreacting through the fact that they think Medea should just move on, similar to the nurse, that maybe Medea is just too obsessed with this idea. This creates the effect that we initially would think that Medea is a mess, that Medea cannot get over a man that has done her wrong, through her common depiction of her depressive episode. With her frequent use of saying she wants to die, lack of eating, loathing around, and so on, we would initially think that maybe Medea is struggling to keep hold of herself. However, when she walks out, she looks very well put together contrasting the common idea that she is a “mess”.
Is Atwood’s novel ultimately a feminist work of literature, or does it offer a critique of feminism?
In Margeret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, women are the main victims in society in the world she has created within the novel. The Republic of Gilead is her depiction of society but in a more exaggerated sense. In this case, men dominate society and women are in complete subjection. This is emphasised through the role of handmaids whose sole purpose is to provide fertile offspring for their commanders. Moreover, the handmaids in this society are also lost within their identity as they are not allowed to use their real names. But instead are given and forced to use names which represent them as the property of their commanders: Ofglen, Ofwarren, Offred.
At the same time, a secondary character of this story we follow, Moira, is known for her more rebellious thinking against the men in this society. With her, a more masculine style and the fact that she is lesbian is something that goes against all Gilead abides by women. However, this gives a sense of hope to Offred for a rebellion against the men in this society. This depiction of Moira and Offred represent feminism as they believe that women should take over/rebel in this society.
I see feminism as the advocacy/fight for equality within both genders: where women are given the same opportunities as men. However, that is not what I think the representation of feminism is like in The Handmaids Tale. I think the novel represents the feminist views in the way in which the handmaids in this society want to take over men. This represents the views of radical feminism as Moira and Offred want to reorder society to have women on top. The complete opposite of a patriarchal society at which The Republic of Gilead is.
Now to answer the question of whether if The Handmaids Tale is a piece of feminist literature or not, yes, I would say that it is. The novel represents an exaggeration of what some women face in society, not just the past but also the present. There are many different places around the world that still believe in these very old and traditional values which have been ruled out in many societies now. Atwood’s representation of women and their role in society within The Republic of Gilead, it shows that women who are oppressed want more as they are just as human as men are. Thus to conclude, it is a piece of feminist literature as it goes dives into the mind of women facing oppression from a patriarchal society. Their build-up of anger, rebellion, and frustration only builds up which also represents the passion at which some women have for the advocacy of feminism.
What is the symbolic power of naming as described in The Handmaid’s Tale? Link to your wider reading about the politics of naming. 250 – 300 words.
Naming is the way we mark our names to one another, to be able to associate a particular person with a story behind themselves. In Margeret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it is not different. Established from the very beginning of the novel, the handmaids are given names Offred, Ofglen, and so on, all with the prefix ‘of’ symbolise their belonging to their specific commander. Not only does this symbolise their belonging to their specific commander due to the idea of working for them, but also their body and their relationship to the commander.
The importance of names is to be able to hold on to their own identity, not to eventually be slowly forgotten as they are all seen as the same. The idea of not having a name or their name being stripped from them dates back to days where oppression and genocide were common such as Jews in labor camps, black saves in the United States, and so on. The idea of not having a name for the handmaid themselves shows that they have no power, no sense of self, and also represented as Offred loses track of time and slowly, her identity.
This relates to the idea of the current Black Lives Matter movement, specifically the name of Breonna Taylor. That people have associated the problem of police brutality and the police abusing the system with the name Breonna Taylor. Contrasting The Handmaid’s Tale in associating power and a message with a name.