Is Offred in Handmaid's Tale a heroine? Is she a heroine? Why or Why not?

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Offred embodies some qualities of a heroine. She slowly becomes more rebellious and wants to free herself from the oppressive regime of Gilead. We see the story through only her perspective, so we are aligned with her and want her to succeed. We might admire some of her traits, like...

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Offred embodies some qualities of a heroine. She slowly becomes more rebellious and wants to free herself from the oppressive regime of Gilead. We see the story through only her perspective, so we are aligned with her and want her to succeed. We might admire some of her traits, like her love of her family, her bravery, and her intelligence. However, Offred also sometimes acts in ways we would not consider heroic, and we also see through her eyes other characters who might be called more traditionally heroic, namely her friend Moira.

Toward the end of the novel, after having been encouraged by Serena Joy to have sex with Nick to try to become pregnant (Serena worries that the Commander is sterile), Offred begins a more involved relationship with Nick. She develops feelings for him, and this dulls her rebellious edge. She no longer feels that she needs to escape Gilead as long as she can continue her affair with Nick. She feels like this will be enough to satisfy her need to fight her oppressed state. Readers will likely be disappointed by Offred's thoughts, though we can also understand why she could feel defeated about rebellion after hearing what happened to Ofglen. Meanwhile, we also see Offred's friend Moira as a more conventional heroine. She is stronger and bolder than Offred. Our narrator even has fantasies about Moira escaping and notes that even though Moira scares the other handmaids, she also serves as a heroine for them. Even Moira, though, is beaten down by the regime, as Offred later finds her working as a prostitute in Jezebel's. Moira describes her position as preferable to being a handmaid or being sent to the colonies, but the reader can also see Offred's disappointment in Moira: she had hoped for so much more for her paladin.

Atwood likely has Offred narrate the novel, rather than a more outspoken, bolder character like Moira or even Offred's mother, because the reader gets to see how an average handmaid experiences her oppression in Gilead. Offred was not particularly rebellious before Gilead took over, like Moira and her mother were, and she seems to have taken for granted the freedoms earlier feminists like her mother had gained for women like Offred. Therefore, Offred is a more measured kind of narrator, and we see her learn about the levels and nuances of her oppression. We witness her journey to rebellion and then the way that is even quelled a bit based on her circumstances. She represents a more realistic version of how a handmaid would respond to her situation than a character like Moira would. On a side note, though, the Hulu adaptation of the novel makes Offred a more rebellious, stronger character who probably embodies the typical heroine role more readily than book Offred does.

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Offred can be argued to be the heroine of the piece. Although she does not physically escape her oppressive situation during the course of the novel, she mentally resists The Republic of Gilead's rules, and even breaks some of them (for example her affair with Nick). Although she is forced to work as a Handmaid and live in sexual oppression, she still fights against the system in the little ways that she can. Even when she acquires the match towards the end of the book, she does not want to use it because the seed of rebelliousness is planted in her mind -- she could start a fire with it and burn down the house. These are heroic thoughts in a society where even thinking them could lead to severe punishment or death. Like every hero or heroine, Offred also has her failings -- when Ofglen informs her of the resistance movement, Offred is afraid to act. However, the Historical Notes say that Offred's account was found along the Underground Femaleroad, which indicates that Offred probably eventually managed to leave Gilead.

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