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How does lack of love affect the characters personalities in The Handmaid's Tale?

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marijke | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 16, 2009 at 8:45 AM via web

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How does lack of love affect the characters personalities in The Handmaid's Tale?

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trimom40 | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 22, 2009 at 2:10 PM (Answer #1)

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Alienation is a the common thread unifying the experiences of all of the characters in The Handmaids Tale. In the formation of Gilead, families were wrenched apart, and fertile women were isolated to be trained as “handmaids.” Undesirables, such as infertile women or homosexuals, were banished to the colonies. Offred describes all of this with a shell-shocked detachment. She describes the loss of her daughter, and her separation from her husband numbly, and is seemingly resigned to her fate. Offred forms tenuous connections with the Commander, who is lonely himself, and Offwarren, her shopping companion. The emotional isolation of the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale contributes to the lack of love, of feeling, that would permit the formation of emotional connections. The lack of unifying relationships between the handmaids, for example, was one of method of ensuring that they could not unite and rebel against their circumstances. The government of Gilead used fear as means of control, and no one could be trusted, which further contributed to the alienation felt by each of the characters. The end result of this isolating atmosphere of fear and distrust was emotional numbness for the characters, which compounded their feelings of powerlessness

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