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Social Classes of the Gilead Era Compared to Today


In Margaret Atwood s The Handmaids Tale you learn about a
fictional time in North American future that seems so
different and unreal when you think of all the freedoms you
have today. The Gilead Era is supposed to be a period of
about one hundred years from about 2005. It describes the
time after the government had been destroyed and taken over
supposedly by corporate goons, and women property and
rights were taken away. The protagonist, who goes by the
name Offred, is what they called a handmaid. She qualified
more as a walking uterus than as a person.
 Today social classes vary around different parts of the
world. Here in America your class mostly revolves around
your money, job, family, education, and ability to stay on
the good side of the law. America right now is basically a
money country. Your family name might mean money to some,
increasing your social class. You need money for a good
education, whether it be to pay for private schooling, or
to live in a good school district. People who have a good
education and family name, are the one most likely to get
the high paying executive jobs. No matter what your class,
every one has the rights to work, vote, have free contact
with other people (non-law-abiding citizens excepted),
raise their kids if they act responsibly, own property,
have second marriages after divorce, read, go where they
want when they want, do their own laundry, and all the
other freedoms you don t notice every day. Discrimination
exists, but not in the constitution or any laws. Even
though the government has lots of problems, unfairness, and
maybe even corruption, it can t take away your rights as
long a you stay out of jail.
 In Offred s world she has no freedom or human name. Social
classes were different for men and women. First there are
the unpeople, deformed babies who are killed, old women who
failed as handmaids or had had previous second marriages,
younger women who broke the law or had more than three
miscarriages or bad births, men who broke the law, were
sympathetic, or were against the government, and any
doctors who performed abortions before the revolution. The
unpeople all had to wear cheap gray dresses and ugly brown
shawls while they either died while cleaning nuclear waste,
or broke their back harvesting crops. Next were handmaids.
These were young women who were fertile, and labeled
adulterous by the government. They lost their money and
property, like all other women, but also lost their rights
and families, their lives. They were only used as new
uteruses for older women married to men of power. They wore
baggy red dresses and cloaks, and white wings to narrow
their vision and hide their faces. The Marthas were law
abiding older women who cooked and clean for the wives in
their green uniforms. The Aunts, in blue military style
uniforms and stern frowns, were in charge of training and
converting the handmaids. They also beat and disciplined
them if they tried to escape. The Wives were the assigned
partners of law-abiding men. They took the babies from
handmaids when they got older, and sat around enjoying
luxuries all day. They had fine clothing and nice ruffled
light blue cloaks to wear. Econowives, the wives of poor
men, had ugly orange, green, brown, and red stripes on
their clothes. Men s class was based on age and occupation.
Soldiers, called Angels, and commanders were held in high
regard. Doctors, workers, and others were the poorer men.
All had assigned wives when they got to a certain age.
Older men, and teenage boys were guards, they made sure no
handmaids left or broke the law. Other minorities of people
include the women that escaped the unpeople colonies by
having their tubes tied, and working at whorehouses for
commanders, and Eyes, who were
men and women forced to go undercover and report any
criminals. Anyone could be an Eye without you knowing it.
 Offred, who was a handmaid, describes her life which is at
its worst because she remembers having a daughter, a
husband, a name, a job, freedom and dignity. She remembers
happiness, too. Our time today was called anarchy by the
people of Gilead. Today we have lots of freedom, and
discrimination, which isn t socially acceptable, is not
supposed to be part of the law. Even though The Handmaids
Tale is fictional, it told of a world that seemed like it
could be real when described, even though it is different
from today. The era of Gilead sounds like a legal dark ages
where your body is more important than your mind, where you
are judged then filed. Reading Margaret Atwood s book made
me realize how much freedom I take for granted.


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