Submission Title

A Defense of Offred's Agency

Location

Jereld R. Nicholson Library: Austin Reading Room

Subject Area

English: Literature

Description

This paper presents an argument defending the agency of Margaret Atwood’s seemingly passive protagonist, Offred, in The Handmaid's Tale. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman whose main function is to reproduce viable offspring for the elite Wives and Commanders of the new Republic of Gilead, a theocratic society which is a conglomerate of history’s most infamous oppressive societies. Because Offred is a cautious character whose anxiety proliferates throughout the novel, many readers conclude that she is a disappointing narrator whose passive life in the United States carries on after radical Christian rebels overthrow the United States government in a military coup. However, the illusion of Offred’s passivity starts to deteriorate once she manipulates the opportunities given to her by illegal relationships with her superiors in order to sustain herself and sensibly rebel against the state. Her agency in this sense disrupts the social fabric of Gilead in addition to challenging the new republic’s vulnerable theocratic value system. The arguments that are presented in this paper in defense of Offred’s agency include her deliberate sexual transgression against Gilead’s strict separation of emotion and sexual activities, manipulation of language and literary activities, and utilization of flashback and metafictional consciousness.

Comments

For the full text of this paper, refer to A Defense of Offred's Agency.

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A Defense of Offred's Agency

Jereld R. Nicholson Library: Austin Reading Room

This paper presents an argument defending the agency of Margaret Atwood’s seemingly passive protagonist, Offred, in The Handmaid's Tale. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman whose main function is to reproduce viable offspring for the elite Wives and Commanders of the new Republic of Gilead, a theocratic society which is a conglomerate of history’s most infamous oppressive societies. Because Offred is a cautious character whose anxiety proliferates throughout the novel, many readers conclude that she is a disappointing narrator whose passive life in the United States carries on after radical Christian rebels overthrow the United States government in a military coup. However, the illusion of Offred’s passivity starts to deteriorate once she manipulates the opportunities given to her by illegal relationships with her superiors in order to sustain herself and sensibly rebel against the state. Her agency in this sense disrupts the social fabric of Gilead in addition to challenging the new republic’s vulnerable theocratic value system. The arguments that are presented in this paper in defense of Offred’s agency include her deliberate sexual transgression against Gilead’s strict separation of emotion and sexual activities, manipulation of language and literary activities, and utilization of flashback and metafictional consciousness.