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The Handmaid's Tale And Beloved: Slavery Vs. Freedom

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Both The Handmaid's Tale and Beloved are stories about slavery: escape from slavery and the effect slavery has on people. In The Handmaid's Tale, the protagonist, Offred, tells the reader of her experience as a reproductive slave in a society that no longer exists. Beloved gives the reader a look at what life is like for a "free" slave, from the point of view of its main characters through a series of flashbacks. While both stories have two completely different premises, they have far more similarities than they have differences. The similarities in these books impart a strong message to the reader about freedom.

In The Handmaid's Tale, Offred lives in a society, known as Gilead. The entire society lives in a type of slavery forced upon them by their countries new government. "It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency." (Atwood 174) Both men and women were confined to stringent, nonsensical rules designed to make, what they considered, a better life. Although there were not many options for living a different life, there was some choice in live they way they lived. Women could choose to live in the colonies.

"Once, though, I heard Rita say to Cora that she wouldn't debase herself like that.

Nobody asking you, Cora said. Anyways, what could you do, supposing?

Go to the Colonies, Rita said. They have the choice.

With the Unwomen, and starve to death and Lord knows what all?" (10)

The threat of being shipped to the colonies as a form of punishment however, makes this option less appealing and the ultimate consequence of noncompliance is death.

Offred's narration of her experience moves between different times and places without any warning to the reader. Her story is told to the reader, fragmented, through a series of audio recordings she makes recounting her experience after she has escaped. The tapes, according to the text, were found in a metal footlocker. (301) Professor Pieixoto says of the tapes, "There were some thirty tapes in the collection altogether, with varying proportions of music to spoken word. In general, each tape begins with two or three songs, as camouflage no doubt; then the music is broken off and the speaking voice takes over." (301) We know this information from the historical notes given to us at the end of the book.

The Handmaid's Tale has some connection to slavery in America with The Underground Femaleroad. "We know that this city was a prominent way station on what our author refers to as 'The Underground Femaleroad.'" (301) This route was Offred's way of escape. The Underground Femaleroad served as a secret network for escape from Gilead, similar to the Underground Railroad.

Beloved, like The Handmaid's Tale, is about slavery, yet in the literal sense as it is known in America. Beloved's story is told from the point of view of a female escapee; Sethe, her family; Denver, Baby Suggs and Beloved; and friend, Paul D. Although the main plot is about Sethe, we do get some of Beloved's story from Beloved herself.

Even though Sethe, Baby Suggs, and Paul D are now "free" slaves, the memory of their past prevents them really being free. Sethe has no friends or community connections where she lives in Ohio at 124. After she kills her baby, in a desperate attempt to save her children from slavery, the community disassociates themselves from Sethe.

"The setting up was held in the yard because nobody besides himself would enter 124 - an injury Sethe answered with another by refusing to attend the service Reverend Pike presided over. She went instead



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