The Laws of Gilead, in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, are well calculated to be as manipulative as possible. This particular passage establishes the rhetoric of these laws that consistently develop as the story progresses.
The syntax itself is conducive to the laws of Gilead. Aunt Lydia speaks in short, concise statements that offer no room for rebuttal or explanation, asserting the idea that reasoning for these laws are extraneous to the peons, and one must simply obey authority without question. Aunt Lydia also exploits misleadingly connotative language when she says “in the days of anarchy” (Atwood 24). The past existence was not an anarchy, yet Aunt Lydia still chooses to employ this term to arouse disdain for their former lives. This implication is conducive to the way Gilead propagates their laws and ideals. For instance, while watching the news with Serena Joy, Offred makes note of how “They only show us victories, never defeats” (Atwood 83). This news is misleading the viewers to believe how perfect the Gilead military is, yet if there have only been victories for this long, it does not seem likely that there should even still be a war. It demonstrates how the Republic of Gilead edits their projections to their benefit with no regard for integrity.
When Aunt Lydia vehemently says, “Don’t underrate it”, there is a commanding tone (Atwood 24). This instills a sense of duty to the women, and that they have to fulfill the demands of their authority. The severity of the statement also implies how there are dire consequences for transgression. It is clear how effective this domineering quality is from Offred’s mentality; she is often times presented opportunities to disobey the law, even in minute instances, like reading her “FAITH” pillow, yet she is always frantically conscious of the penalties (Atwood 57).
Aunt Lydia claims “Now you are being given freedom from”, as if their present existence was vouchsafed to them (Atwood 24). To be given something reaps gratitude, and implies that there is recompense to pay, which is how Gilead keeps the women from revolt. It is actually absurd that Gilead should be considered the benefactor: the republic has taken from these women their families, their identity, and their livelihood. Aunt Lydia’s “freedom from” idea is an oxymoron that presents the absurdity of these laws. “Freedom” is to be limitless, yet “from” implies that there are boundaries that is keeping something away. This presents just one of the numerous undermining discrepancy of Gilead, and foreshadows the impossibility to follow such absurdities.