What Makes Us Free?

This passage is important because it reveals a basic foundation of the new society in which Offred lives: individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech, must be sacrificed in order to create a “safer” society that does not contain many of the uncertainties of the previous society. Everyone has an assigned place within Gilead – they are Handmaids or Marthas or Wives or Angels or one of the many other positions created and maintained by the society. There is not the uncertainty of being unemployed or of finding one’s calling in life. They are free from fear of attacks that are common in today’s society: rape, mugging, random acts of violence, etc. As Offred says in reference to having to go shopping in twos for “protection”: “the notion is absurd: we are well protected already. The truth is that she is my spy, as I am hers.” (Atwood 19). The fear of being out alone, left over from life in the previous society, is being played in order to disguise the fact that the women are not trusted on their own. These freedoms they have, the “freedom from”, come at the expense of the “freedom to”, of their natural human rights and others we take for granted. If the women were not spied upon by each other, they might try to run away, to seek out those freedoms they are denied. This passage opens up the book by prompting the reader to examine the differences in the freedoms that Gilead offers and the freedoms it has taken away, and to consider which is more important to have – freedom to or freedom from.

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One response to “What Makes Us Free?

  1. aeernst

    I think it’s very interesting how you bring up the fact that everyone in The Republic of Gilead is given a position that is maintained by society. While this does give everyone the freedom from being unemployed or of finding one’s calling in life, this takes away ones freedom to decide what they want to do with their time and effort, which brings another aspect into finding the balance of freedom and defining what freedom really is. In our society, almost all of us have the freedom to choose what to do professionally, and we take it for granted, but is it really worth giving up the security of employment that is present in The Republic of Gilead?

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