Even though it is a fiction novel, the theme is realistic. I perceive as Atwood’s predominant message in the Handmaid’s Tale is the harms of totalitarian in various aspects. It narrates a regime named Gilead created by totalitarians based on Bible without considering any alternatives and whether the Bible fit the current society. From the perspective of Gilead potentates, “All we’ve done is return things to Nature’s norm” (p220). The so-called “return” is returning to the time God created the human. It is a self-deception to think in that way that once everyone believes in omnipotent God, all social, moral, and economic problems will be solved. Even though they face the serious environment and reproduction problems, they are so stubborn to simply follow the Bible and put everything in God’s control but not try to fix them. In addition, the creators create a hierarchical system to brainwash and monitor everyone. Therefore, the harm that totalitarian society brings to each individual is endless pain. It causes a series of social problems, the imbalance between two genders, and distort the humanity of individuals.
The intense relationship between two genders causes social unbalance. The commander says during the service, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence”. He continues degrading women’s status by using the story of Adam and Eve from Bible, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” It can tell that women have no equality in Gilead society. They are only the “two-legged wombs” for which all Martha, doctor, and wife serve. Men seem to have more power over women; however, they lost a lot of rights and freedoms to pursue their enjoyment of lives under Gilead’s restraints. For instance, the Commanders in high social status are still watched by the Eyes and even face being killed if found guilty.
The Republic of Gilead as an extreme society seems to rule over all the people. However, it is actually a hypocritical society, even the creators as commander himself are doubtful about it. As one of the creators, he acts against the rules all the time and tends to be a typical liberalism. He privately contracts with handmaid Offred, secretly collects a large amount of “heretical” magazines and literature, touches Offred during the Ceremony because he thinks it is impersonal, he even secretly dresses up Offred and takes her to the secret sex club Jezebel’s. It indicates how hypocritical commander is. On another hand, it reveals the real human nature and potentates accomplish somewhat “efforts” to maintain the regime behind their miserable life. His propose of building a caring atmosphere is to make handmaid’s life bearable. If the handmaids think their lives are bearable, it will then demonstrate the entire thing Gilead regime do are reasonable and blameless. Therefore, we can tell the falsity and less confidence of Gilead regime.
Sex market is gone, but the underground nightclub still exists in Jezebel’s where women are still degraded and are treated as sexual objects rather than people when it clearly violates law and value that Gilead upholds. Gilead appeals the public not to pursue luxurious life but only spiritual enrichment. However, some Commanders and their wives secretly break the rules to indulge in luxuries, such as using the black market to gain contraband items such as alcohol and cigarettes. In addition, Angel soldiers do their jobs not because of their loyalty that believing in God, but for getting a wife reasonably. Moreover, Aunts educate the handmaids about restraint and abstinence, but they are secretly doing something dirty. Therefore, all the positions of power in Gilead social classes are deceptive and full of lies. The totalitarian system of Gilead regime harms each individual who is under control.