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Margaret Atwood’s Novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” Analysis

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When Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published, it became a controversial and influential novel. In the mid-1980s, the novel was in the category of best-selling novels. Outside of North America, it has been read with interest in abroad and has been translated into nearly thirty languages such as Chinese, Serbian and Croatian. The Handmaid’s Tale novel has recently turned into a feature film, serial, an opera, a complete radio adaptation, and a stage play. The Handmaid’s Tale serial has been compared with the best dystopia of all time. In this novel and later adaptation of the serial, feminism is often encountered in the serial, and the issue of abortion, which has become the subject of debate in the world in recent years, is addressed. There are many issues in the serial that lead to psychoanalysis with ideological elements and a Freudian perspective. Ideology is nothing but a pure illusion and a pure dream. In other words, ideology is nothing. Thus, ideology is considered to be a fictitious structure that is precisely similar to the theoretical state of the dream in the writers before Freud. For these writers, dreams are purely imaginative – that is, the nugget. The results of the ‘daily remains’ presented in arbitrary and sometimes ‘inverted’ arrangement and layout are, in short, ‘irregular.’ Ideology is an empty imaginary community consisting of the daily remnants of a single, positive reality that produces the material beings of concrete history. (Althusser, 1971, p. 175)

In Handmaid’s Tale, we see the pure illusion of ideology and how people who are linked to ideology become blind . The serial contains a male-dominated religious authoritarian body and women live their lives with all their rights. The serial also includes psychoanalytic elements. For example, the pain of Offred is more psychological than physical. The story of the serial refers to the restrictions of medieval times, especially bigotry on behalf of religious ceremonies and rituals, and the liking of women’s subjugation in the name of loyalty. Since Atwood himself belonged to a Puritan past, it can be said that this past psychologically provided ideas for this novel. The serial reveals a regression situation, which emphasizes that the unconscious hatred is met with extreme love. It can be said that the intensity of destructive instincts leads to an emphasis on idealization, and this leads to regression (Fenster, 2010, p. 644).

The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of a woman named Offred who is trapped in an unhappy life. But the woman who has a miserable life here is not only herself. At the same time, every woman faces the same persecution in the dystopian Gilead Republic. Gilead has a totalitarian government in which the state prevails over everything, even in people’s thoughts. The physical and psychological limitation creates severe anxiety in Offred, and since it is not even allowed to express it, it uses specific defense mechanisms to protect its external stance and internal integrity. In the case of Offred, denial, selective memory, selective perception, and avoidance constitute the basis for survival in a world with several options (Psychoanalysis, 2006, p. 175). In the serial, the ideology shows individuals, especially women, as abstract subjects. Ideology distinguishes individuals as subjects. Ideology has always called individuals as subjects. This means that individuals are always called subjects by ideology. Individuals are always and already subjects. In other words, individuals are always ‘subjects’ according to the subjects (Althusser, 1971, p. 192).

In the Handmaid’s Tale, both totalitarian power and sexuality are in direct relation. The dominant male religious totalitarian structure abolished women’s rights, defined women only according to the gender object and fertility characteristics, and did not give importance to women’s thoughts. The male hegemony in the government has isolated educated women and thus deprived them of the power of knowledge in the hands of women. The male religious hegemony thus took the information away from the women and brought them into the state of slavery and made them a silent one. This ideological pressure man wanted to lie in the type of women wanted. However, this pressure causes women’s existence in society to be unnecessary, and women as a reproductive object cause them to see. Thus, the existence of women has become a worthless object. In this context, ideology is an autonomous area of struggle, and it is understood from the oppression of women’s hegemony that women in the serial that ideological practice has a practice that develops their mechanisms of oppression (Althusser, 1971, p. 177).

As a result, The Handmaid’s Tale is a serial in which ideological pressure and psychoanalysis are reflected in the context of psychological situations. In the serial, male dominance on women and the destruction of the existence of women and the influence of male religious dominated thought on the female body are also seen. In particular, the practice of strict supervision of abortion and the fact that abortion is a sin in terms of religion has caused women to be seen as a permanent birth and reproduction object. In our country, the issue of abortion, which is a topic that has been discussed in recent years, can be interpreted directly as a means of male domination on the female body. Also, it is dominant in our country that women should be silent and should not talk much. The basis of all these reasons is the religious view. In this context, The Handmaid’s Tale in the dystopian serial is much less reflect the position of women in Turkey. The Handmaid’s Tale serial also reflects the psychological impact of ideological commitment and the oppression of a population in society. Psychological phenomena such as regression, anxiety, concern, and hopelessness are common in women who have been suppressed in the serial. Also, the dominant ideological thought sees women as an abstract entity, and women’s subjectivity is abstracted. With ideological pressure, women’s selves are diminished. Thus, women are obliged to more easily submit to the male religious totalitarian structure. A kind of dystopia in this serial is a reflection of dark male domination. Ideological pressure functions as a control tool of the male-dominated totalitarian structure that governs the state (Althusser, 1971, p. 181).

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Margaret Atwood’s Novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” Analysis. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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