Margaret Legace 2 The novel is written in

Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a startling version of a dystopian future that shows the subjugation of women, their identities and their human rights. A social reformist named B.R Ambedkar once said, “Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives.” (Ambedkar, The Annihilation of Caste) Identity and value of individuality are paramount in today’s society as well as in the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, where the theme of individuality is central to the storyline. This is something that is valuable to both today’s society and to the storyline, although they show them in different ways. In contemporary time, men and women are all discernable by their differences and the individuality that they possess. In the dystopian society of Gilead however, Atwood creates a world of nameless women and lost identities. Handmaids, women with the sole purpose to bear children, are like the drops of water in an endless sea that B.R. Ambedkar refers to; persons void of identity and beings lost of value. Atwoods decision to strip the handmaids of a name was the goal of portraying the oppression and objectification of the characters. Establishing the handmaids positions as tools and possessions also aided in reinforcing the theme of loss of identity. Legace 2 The novel is written in the first person point of view of a handmaid named Offred. Offred’s story is a recount of past and present events involving the deterioration of modern America into the new Republic of Gilead. Handmaids, the only fertile women left in the society, are assigned to elite households with the sole purpose of bearing children for the Commanders and their wives. Under the constant supervision of, “The Eyes,” the secret police of the Republic, the handmaids are always being monitored while they are trying to exercise a little bit of freedom from the walls of their commander’s house. Despite the difficult circumstances, Offred befriends a fellow handmaid named Ofglen.The two become quite close until Ofglen dies by suicide, due to being involved in a hidden resistance movement. Offered is troubled by the loss of her friend and this challenges her sense of security. At the same time Offred forms a relationship with Nick, the commander’s chauffeur.  He showed her that her life was of value and worthy of individuality. As the novel draws to a close, Offred is taken away from the Commander’s house by the secret resistance known as Mayday, and her identity and individuality is no more.Individuality is disregarded completely in relation to the names of the handmaids. The reader is introduced into a society where birth names hold no value. Handmaids are banned from using their legitimate names and are forbidden to share their names with anyone. “My name isn’t Offred. I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden” (Atwood 95). Handmaids, when not successful in bearing children, move from house to house and receive new names echoing the commander of the house’s name. Placing the master’s name in the handmaid’s, is how Atwood enforces that no woman is her own self and the household is all that matters. A        Legace 3further example of this is the transferability of the handmaid’s names. Each time a handmaid leaves a household for another, they are renamed, meaning no handmaid will ever have a permanent name. We see evidence of this after the death of the previous Ofglen, “I am Ofglen the woman says… And of course she is the new one, and Ofglen, wherever she is, is no longer Ofglen.” (Atwood 326)  There is no individuality or identity in this dystopian society, names are insignificant and are transferred from one person to another. Having nothing to identify who they truly are, other than their household names, the fact that their new names are not even unique to them, proves the lack of individuality that the handmaids possess.Handmaids, though important, are the most oppressed characters in the novel and are deemed no more than a means to an end. Tasked with breeding and supplying children to the Republic of Gilead, though an important job, sets the handmaids at a standard less than a household tool. A tool, defined by Merriam-Webster is a, “…device that aids in accomplishing a task.” In the case of  the society of Gilead the tool is a handmaid and the task is to bear children, they are nameless incubators, nothing more, yet nothing less. “…Serena Joy will shortly enthrone herself, leaning on her cane while she lowers herself down. Possibly she’ll put a hand on my shoulder, to steady herself, as if I’m a piece of furniture. She’s done it before.” (Atwood 89) Though indirectly, this instance brings to light that even subconsciously the wives of Gilead see the handmaids as nothing more than a tool in their homes.         Legace 4Handmaids are further oppressed and objectified by not being afforded human rights. In the universal declaration of human rights it is stated that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights..” and that they shall also have a, “right to life… and the security of their own persons.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) The government of Gilead does not abide by the rules that make human lives valuable in the twenty-first century and in today’s perspective a violation of that magnitude would be a gross injustice. The dystopian society in which the novel is set however, does not comply with the Declaration of Human Rights. In Offred’s previous life, a modern America, civil rights would have been a common affair. The reader is shown the decline of human rights through frequent flashbacks, provided by Offred. ” They’ve frozen them, she said. Mine too….Any account with an F on it instead of an M, they can change anything by a couple pushes of buttons.” (Atwood 206) With the dismissal of all women from their workplaces, women no longer being allowed to own bank accounts or property, the life Offred used to lead, turns into Gilead and the situation the handmaid’s now live in. A further example of this is when the handmaids are allowed no privacy. To give privacy to something, or someone, would deem the person in question human and therefore worthy of such rights. “Cora brings my supper, covered on a tray. She knocks at the door before entering. I like her for that. It means she thinks I have some of what we used to call privacy left.” (Atwood 74) This simple instance of privacy shows that the sentiment is rarely felt. Offred is grateful that there is someone who allows her such a comfort because it is so rare for her to experience it. Having privacy is a simple pleasure Offred possesses in that instance and it allows her to feel some form of identity and value. The numerous oppressive         Legace 5acts made against the handmaids are unjustifiable even in a society where human rights laws are not abided.Offred in the Handmaid’s Tale, is devoid of individuality and identity as are the other handmaids. Their true names, families and lives were stolen away from them the moment that the Republic became discriminatory towards women. In the words of B.R. Ambedkar, the handmaids are like the drops of water. Men of Gilead have oppressed them into being unrecognisable from one handmaid to the next.  The lack of identity has caused them to disappear like rain into an ocean, void of being and lost to uniqueness, the handmaids are no more than tools, objects or even furniture. In Atwood’s opinion the novel is not a work of feminism, being that feminism is a lucid term meaning different things to different people, but one of science fiction with relatable aspects. They are objectified women who live in a fictional novel, yet the messages portrayed through their suffering is one that is still relevant today.