Lecturer’s Date: Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale can both be considered feminist works. They both look at the different aspect of feminism, which can be seen in the remarkably different environments in which the stories in these novels are set, and these give a hint of the authors’ thoughts on the feminism…
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Both of these stories are told according to the view of the main characters and they often display a strong sense of the feminist ideology, whether the authors do it consciously or unconsciously. One would be tempted to say that these novels are attempts by the authors to advance the feminist agenda by showing us the progress that has been made by women so far and the way this progress might be quickly eroded. They attempt to show the weaknesses that plague the feminist movement and the fact that, despite all its recent gains, this movement is still extremely new and if anything catastrophic were to happen; then all these gains would be lost in an instant mainly because of the nature of these gains. In the state of Gilead where The Handmaid’s Tale is set, women are kept apart from the men, and it is expected that they support each other in all aspects of life. If these women are in the same household, they are expected to work together to fulfill the various duties which have been set for their gender. In this novel, women are presented, as to be strong being able to deal with many of the issues, which face them on their own without the help of men. It is said that women are better suited to handle the problems, which face them, and it is this more than anything that ensures that they are isolated (Atwood 3). The theocratic state of Gilead justifies the isolation of women in their society by using teachings from the bible. The Passion, on the other hand, is a novel that is based on two characters, one male and one female. Of these, the female character, Villanelle, is portrayed to be the stronger of the two and through her cross dressing displaying those characteristics which one would consider being extremely masculine. The male character, Henri, is the complete opposite of Villanelle because he feels inadequate in his position in society and tends to compensate for this through his dedication to writing enhanced stories about himself in a diary. Furthermore, although he is a soldier in Napoleon’s army, Henri is depicted as a person who is afraid to kill, something that one would not expect from most men (Winterson 160). One would say that the women being isolated in Gilead is as a direct result of the feminist movement belief that women can do better on their own without the presence of men. It is Atwood’s means of symbolizing the weaknesses of the feminist movement because no matter what they do, men are still as necessary in their lives as women are in men’s lives and none can do without the other. On the other hand, the strong, independent nature of Villanelle shows a significant support for the feminist movement from Winterson. This is also accompanied by a desire to achieve what Villanelle wants through her dressing as a boy, which could be interpreted as a symbol of women trying to step into the roles traditionally reserved for men. While Villanelle is depicted as being of a strong personality and fearless, Henri is shown to be weak and incompetent, and this might be considered to be Winterson’s attempt to show that women are as good as men and that gender roles are not just limited to one gender and that they may in fact, be considered to be universal. Villanelle’s character is in direct contrast to that displayed by Offred in The
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This novel presents a world of dystopia vision, where religious fundamentalists are the rulers, while women are only confined to the roles of female with neither property nor education. Throughout the novel: The Handmaids Tale, the author, Margaret Attwood shows a futuristic society, called Gilead, wherein the government controls their citizens through fear, pain and manipulation.
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