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Kirby 1 Jillian Kirby Mr.

Roelen AP English Literature Period 1 12 March 2012 The Handmaids Tale Essay: Question 3 Imagine a society where men have total control, prostitutes are the women with the most freedom, and you live every second in fear of being watched. Margaret Atwood presents this dystopian world in her novel The Handmaids Tale. The protagonist, Offred, goes to great lengths to keep herself from crumbling under the societys pressure. One of the main beliefs that Offred holds on to is faith, as demonstrated through Atwoods depiction of an embroidered pillow reading Faith. This pillow serves to keep Offred sane, portrays the faith of Gilead society and symbolizes the deprivation of freedom in Gilead. One of the main reasons that Offred has a sound mind through most of the novel is because she always has faith, which is symbolized by the pillow. However, this is not a religious faith, but a belief that her husband and daughter are still alive. For instance, Offred believes that Luke is lying face down in a thicket (104), sitting up in a rectangle somewhere (104) or even that they didnt catch him (105). These contradicting beliefs serve to keep faith in her loved ones and also, since she believes in these three scenarios simultaneously, make her prepared for the future in that nothing will surprise her. However, similar to the faded (57) pillow, Offreds faith in her daughter being alive is still present when Serena Joy shows her the picture of her daughter, but weakened by sadness when Offred realizes that her daughter will never remember her. Another example of Offreds faith is that she believes there will be hope for the future and that a real life

Kirby 2 will come after it (39). Therefore, the pillow accurately symbolizes Offreds faith and many beliefs. Another purpose of the pillow is to portray the faith in the Gilead society. Gilead is presumably built around faith, but the pious views of religion are ignored in favor of manipulating religion for power and corruption. The pillow has been overlooked (57), referencing to the fact that while it once had meaning, its original religious purpose has been forgotten. The pillow is worn, but not enough to throw out (57), indicating that faith still exists at some level even though it has been corrupted by society. The ideals of faith have been changed and distorted to fit the uses of Gilead, but it still remains underneath it all. It is also ironic that there is hardly any faith left in the Gilead people, but there it is in Offreds room, solid material and proof for her to touch. Moreover, Offred wants to throw something, the cushion for instance (57) at the Commander, which indicates that he needs more faith and needs to get out of his current state of unhappiness. Everyone in Gilead requires more faith in order to lead a present life. This is how the pillow portrays faith in the Gilead society. Last, the pillow serves to display the deprivation of freedom in Gilead. This is evident when Offred grasps onto the power she feels and could spend tens of minutes (57) reading the print. Reading is forbidden in Gilead, and the pillow is the only reading material Offred has. Gileads withholding of freedoms causes Offred to appreciate the smaller aspects of her life, such as being able to read the pillow. However, Offred relishes the power of doing something forbidden, and this affects the action of the novel because it leads into even more high-risk activities, such as the affairs with both the Commander and Nick. In addition, Offred becomes paranoid when reading the pillow, and develops an excuse in the event of someone catching her reading it; Offred didnt put the cushion here [herself] (57). She wonders whether this small action of reading a word

Kirby 3 embroidered onto a pillow is worthy of punishment, if Offred was caught doing it, would it count? (57). This pillow reading Faith affects Offred and the action of The Handmaids Tale. In The Handmaids Tale, even a small object such as an embroidered pillow can serve a large purpose in the novel. The word Faith on the pillow is very important when applied to Offred, Gileads society, and the deprivation of freedoms. Atwoods use of this symbol is a reminder of how significant faith can be in everyday life.

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