The Meaning of Freedom in The Handmaid’s Tale

When looking at this passage, it’s interesting to consider the concept of freedom and how it plays out and is considered in the rest of the novel. Aunt Lydia claiming that Offred is “given freedom from” is an odd ideal when thought of it in the standards of her society. So far in the novel, Offred is restricted in many ways, making it hard for the reader to see her life as anything but free. Perhaps this type of “freedom to” that Aunt Lydia is talking about refers to the freedom for women to protect themselves from danger and question male figures. Offred describes a time in her past life when women could “keep the locks on and keep going” (Atwood 25). In her past life, she had control—“freedom to” control perhaps; however, now Aunt Lydia claims that she has “freedom from” the life of the past. The classification of her current life as freedom is difficult to understand for the reader because her life seems for confined than ever. Although she doesn’t have to worry about being attacked by men, she is merely a servant in the Republic of Gilead. The current controlled way of life that Offred faces may be considered freedom from worry by some people, but when read in present day, I thought that her current state was completely away from a state of freedom. This passage gives an opening to the rest of the novel in that it shows the oppressive viewpoints of the other women in the republic who are trying to make the best of their current situation, as it is the only option they are left with.



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One response to “The Meaning of Freedom in The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. I thought this “freedom from” quote from Aunt Lydia was a little crazy when I first read it in the book. I totally agree with you when you say Aunt Lydia is referring to the women now able to protect themselves from danger and question male figures. I find it extremely difficult to understand what Aunt Lydia means by “freedom”. Offred’s life is anything but “free”. There are not even any locks on the doors! Until we are told in the book, I am not sure if I agree if Offred’s new life is the only option for her. I truly do not know of what person would think the kind of life Offred (now) leads would be a better option than the freedom to live her life the way she desired. Offred really is a servant of Gilead now, and she has nearly no say in it.

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