Margaret Atwood

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What is a thesis statement for The Handmaid’s Tale, chapters 1-21? Give three arguments and examples, then a conclusion.

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One potential thesis statement for TheHandmaid’s Tale , particularly chapters 1–21, could be that women in Gilead society are not only stripped of their rights, they are also stripped of their individual identities. We see this in that the handmaids are no longer called by their individual given names....

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This illustrates that they are not considered individuals. They are not viewed as people, but merely as vessels to conceive, incubate, and give birth to babies.

The restrictions against using their actual names underscores the depersonalization of women. The handmaids are called by the names of their commanders, as in Offred or Ofglen. Their names are unimportant because for the commanders, they are not individuals with personal identities. Even the other women who have any limited personal agency support this. One example of this is in the birth scene in chapter 21. Offred connects with another woman, who asks her,

What's your real name?

Offred wants to answer but is prevented by one of the Aunts looking their way.

Another example of the depersonalization of all women in Gilead, not only the handmaids, is the uniforms that they are required to wear to signify their class and status. In the above-noted birth scene, "two of the Wives in their blue dresses and veils" participate. The veils cover their faces and any traces of personal identity, just as the handmaids' costumes cover their personal identities.

Moreover, in chapter 21, the author notes that the handmaids are all familiar with how to help deliver a baby. One likely takeaway is that this is because giving birth is their single purpose in life as far as the Gilead commanders are concerned. Atwood writes,

The two women help her off the bed, support her on either side while she paces. A contraction hits her, she doubles over. One of the women kneels and rubs her back. We are all good at this, we've had lessons.

The reader could conclude that women, from handmaids to aunts to wives, are valued in Gilead only for their role in the birth process.

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