What role does fear play in The Handmaid's Tale?

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slcollins | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Fear plays a central role in The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred is driven by fear – fear of not getting pregnant, fear of stepping out of line and being turned in, and fear of living her entire life in her current state. She fears not getting pregnant because she would face a future in the Colonies. Getting pregnant will secure her future and place in society. She also fears stepping out of line and having someone tell on her. It is obvious that the handmaid’, and everyone else in society, are conditioned to believe what they are told and report those who don’t act accordingly. That explains why the handmaids always travel in pairs. Offred also fears living her life like it currently is; inferences direct the reader to understand that suicide would be preferable to what life she has now. The Commander is able to give her a glimpse of how her life could be – black market magazines, lotion and clandestine trips to Jezebel’s are what he uses to tempt her. Even these are not enough to make her comply with the life she has been told to lead. Even though she is afraid, she still works for the resistance and believes in a greater cause. 

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