What parallels can you spot between the social structure in Gilead and our own world?

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There are several structural aspects of 2010s US society that parallel those which Margaret Atwood presents for the society in The Handmaid’s Tale. Class-based hierarchy and male dominance are among the most prominent similarities. Although not a structural parallel, the active role of Christian fundamentalism also has some similarities. The class structure is obvious in the position of the handmaids: as members of the working class, they are servants in the homes of the wealthy and powerful. Today, many wealthy families still have live-in servants; a major difference is that their subjugation to employers’ sexual assault is not routine as in the novel.

Women’s opportunities to make decisions about legal matters that directly concern them can also be compared. In the contemporary United States, women can vote and participate in the electoral process. However, the percentages of female representatives—in both state legislatures and Congress—and of female judges are very low, which means that men make most of the legal decisions that affect women. The Christian conservatives who have taken over the government in the novel have placed severe restrictions on reproductive freedom. Many would argue that recent legal decisions in the United States have curtailed reproductive rights, especially in regard to abortion.

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