Security at the Price of Freedom

A fear plagues the women of the society and that fear has led them to cling to security over freedom.  The appreciation of security is furthered by citing everything that the women are to be given “freedom from” (24).  This is most evident in some of the old pornographic films that the women were shown during their time in training with the Aunts.  The films featured “women being raped, beaten up, killed” with sound included in order to create the greatest fear and trauma in the women watching (118).  Now the women are protected to the point that they are suffocated by the security and lack the “freedom to” which they held back before the collapse of the government and decline of the birth rate.  The protagonist often flashbacks to little moments of freedom that she never realized were so precious, such as having a job and having possession of her own property.  These freedoms were steadily traded for security as the people stopped the marches, due to the men with machine guns and poor attendance, then stopped trying to escape.  The quote from page 24 highlights the transition that the society has taken from freedom to security without allowing the characters to think about what they have sacrificed by defining both as a type of freedom.  The quote is given early on, before the audience receives details on how the society was constructed, and uses the early time to show the audience the dualism present in the novel and how it affects the mindset of the characters, allowing them to continue with the suffocating and oppressive regime.

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3 responses to “Security at the Price of Freedom

  1. looloo14

    I think it is helpful that you noted the importance of her flashbacks to her past. I never thought of them as flashes of freedom; I considered them as background information only. When you consider freedoms she used to take for granted, it makes the life changes she has to endure that much more painful. Especially the flashes she has of her daughter. In Offred’s current life, women in her position may have kids but they are never allowed to keep them outside of a few weeks of breastfeeding. Not only is Offred separated from her own daughter, she has no future hope of raising a child herself.

  2. While I do agree with you, I think there are some examples that might explain the “freedom from” sentiment even better. The pornographic films were used to scare the women from being assaulted and raped. I think one of the exchanges Offred had with Aunt Lydia (after Offred saw the Japanese tourists) when Aunt Lydia tells Offred how “fortunate” and “lucky” Offred is that she doesn’t “have to” dress the way those women did anymore, and Offred and the other handmaids are completely protected from all harm that might have happened to them.
    I do completely agree with you about Offred having the flashbacks to her former life. These flashbacks happen when Offred is beginning to feel more lonely and trapped than usual. One of these occurs when she speaks of having the strong desire to touch someone. Offred then reminisces back to the relationship she had with her husband.

  3. Aunt Lydia is reminding the women of a former life when she is saying “In the days of anarchy”, and that they are in a completely different reality which gives them “freedom from” (Atwood 24). Offred has become so deprived, and she yearns for her past so much that she makes minute things, like butter, a luxurious remnant of her past. The story’s point of view is from Offred’s consciousness, and while she is addressing her present existence, she will sporadically measures her life now to when she had a mother, husband, child, and all things that defined her as a human being of the past. So I have to agree that this passage presents the comparison of the past existence with the present.

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