The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 1

This chapter begins with Offred, whose name is not disclosed at first, narrating the state of the old gymnasiums that they are forced to sleep in, as well as describing a sense of loss which she, and other women feel. (Williamson, 2017). They are given some army cots which they sleep on under the watchful eye of Aunt Elizabeth, and Aunt Sara. According to the narrator, Aunt Sara, and Elizabeth are not allowed to have guns, but find other ways to ensure order by using cattle prods. The guards outside, Angels, are allowed to have guns, but they cannot enter the gymnasium. The women can have two walks per day for exercise and mental stimulation. Offred narrates that the women have a longing to speak to the guards, so that they can attempt to use their bodies, to make a favourable deal with the guards; however, the guard hardly sees them. At night, the women whisper to each other, exchanging their names and thoughts where they are able to exchange names.


As illustrated through Offred, the women begin to remember their life before they ended up in this place. Throughout this chapter, the importance of gender roles, as well as a hierarchy, is seen. The women are valued only for their reproductive roles with those that are unable to conceive being forced to carry out household chores. The hierarchy is seen in the manner that leadership is coordinated, and how power is distributed. As far as Offred and her peers are concerned, they recognize that their body has power, and thus long to have an opportunity to use it.  In their situation, they assert their personality and defiance through acts of rebellion such as telling each other their name, a simple act that is prohibited.

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