Comparison of The Handmaids Tale and Antigone

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The Handmaid's Tale is a drama that serves as a warning about what may happen when radical ideas are used to address social problems. The novel gives religious fanatics control of the government, which leads to brutality, injustice, and persecution. The author, Margaret Atwood, uses speculative fiction to convey his beliefs in the novel, and readers can utilize themes to analyze diverse events. Antigone is the third volume in what looks to be a messed-up Greek tragedy trilogy in Oedipus the King's whole history. Greek theater is based on religious festivities, which are interwoven into plays through song and dance. The play follows the fall of the great King Oedipus which accompanies the tragedies that his children suffer. In consistence with the Greek drama, Antigone is not divided into acts or scenes but the author uses the various characters to depict important themes that affect even the modern society. The common theme of power is evident in both books as the author use the respective character to express their ideologies in the different settings and times in history.

Among the most critical themes in The Handmaid’s Tale include the availability of power and influence. On one side, Gilead is seen as a religious dictator and hence power is centered wholly from the top. The drama indicates no room for appeal for his leadership style as there is no method is sure in shielding oneself from the authroties, and no individual can think that power from outside can influence the current leadership. Among the major characteristics of power is that it is very noticeable. The display of power is seen to be imposed in one direction and there is oppression from the top. Unlike in a democratic society where the people consent the leaders who rule them and to be governed, the citizens, as well as the leadership, show an interest in upholding the constructions of the society (Atwood, 321). However, in Gilead, the régime fills the roads and the homes of the leaders with guns and guards. The likelihood of spying in Gilead is unchanged with the citizens being free to own only in their heads. The power in the book creates a massive isolation between the people in power and the citizens.

Regardless of the success of Gilead regime in imposing the orders, the characters as depicted by the author reveal that even the large power may be stripped off from the people but there will still be a way for them to govern themselves and others. Offred uses her sexuality in the most elusive way and is cognizant for the first time that she has a lot of power since she is a woman. Nonetheless she has the absolute capacity to follow through on her ideas, she acknowledges that she can manipulate the ideas in the heads of men and also communicates with the Guardians under Angel’s very noses. Offered comes to know that the Handmaids kill themselves so that they maintain the ultimate logic of power over their decisions and bodies. She has the thoughts of suicide that crossed her mind (Atwood, 325). In her affiliation with the Commander, Offred attains real power though she is fearful to utilize it and assess its confines. She eventually realizes that the powers that she had over him were not important since he would do everything to save her from the rage of his companion.

In Antigone, the theme of power is evidenced as it corrupts and blinds the characters metaphorically. The most elaborate highlight of the power is the arrogance that is depicted by King Creon of Thebes, who acts unperceptively and downright mean to the people who serve him. Power corrupts as seen in Antigone. The brother in law to the King was a reasonable man but when he inherits the position of King, he becomes proud and is cruel to his followers. Antigone is symbolic of the feminine change as she is nowhere near the radicalism of Euripides Medea, who kills the members of the royal family and murders her own children through the influence of women (Cairns, 184). However, as depicted in the play, Antigone sacrifices her own life and tries to rise in a society that is dominated by men but she is imprisoned. Some of the clashes between her with Creon are symbolic of the struggle that women pass through against men.

In the prologue, Ismene warns Antigone that women are just weak and cannot match the agility of men but Antigone is defiant of the advice. When Antigone argues that she was justified in her actions to the loyalty in her family and to the gods, Creon is adamant and dismisses her by claiming that she was an overemotional woman. Antigone gives the perception of the time it was but is unresentful to her accusers. Antigone’s character is interesting as she is symbolic of the feminist’s activist where she spends her time being dutiful to men. She spent her childhood following Oedipus around (Cairns, 202). She now spends the most of her time sharing her life to her fallen brother. Even though Antigone’s character is depicted as a strong character she still needs the presence of men in her life to fight for the power that she wanted and fulfill her emotional sustenance. In addition, she may be thought of as a woman-hating woman, but in a real sense, she struggles for power in trying to fight for the position of women in society.

In both Antigone and The Handmaid’s Tale, the female characters depict female power, which they did not initially realize they possessed. Girl power refers to the ability of women to use their influence and achieve equality and other girls in a society that is dominated by men. As illustrated in Antigone, she was discouraged in fighting for the position of women and she undergoes suffrage to put her position across a society that was dominated by men. It is not clear whether she has a similar stance as the rest of women since she fights them off but the audience can understand that she was in a world of her own fighting for what other women did not see in the society. In the same way, Gilead is depicted as a dictator and uses his influence to get what he wants. After humiliating his subjects and the people who served under him, he is ousted from power from an external force (Cairns, 105). However, the position of women in society is diminished as the men control the majority of the decisions in the society. However, the role that Offred plays is critical as it depicts the girl power although she was not aware of the power she had. She uses her sexuality to awaken the ideas of men and communicates to the guardians under the noses of the angels. She is daring and uses her position to fight for her rights only to realize that she the handmaids had been committed suicide in order to maintain some aspects of power over their bodies and decisions.

At the time when the authors were writing the two narratives; the society was entirely patriarchal and the men had all the control of the resources as well made all the decisions. From both narratives, we find that King Oedipus in Antigone and Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale respectively dominate the leadership of the society (Atwood, 342). However, the succession plan for the two leaders is characterized by chaos and it is that point when women start fighting for equality in the society. The feminists argue that the women suffrage occurred due to lack of a voice to highlight their oppressions and needs. The girl power in the narratives illustrates an important element which should be embraced even in modern society.

As women fight to be heard in the society, it is also important to ensure equality prevails as they bring a balance especially in decision making and division of labor. The two authors use the characters Gilead and Antigone to depict the need for women inclusion in the society. The male dominance in leadership is characterized by struggles that affect decision making and distribution of power but the inclusion of women activates development as highlighted in the respective texts in this study.

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Work cited

Atwood, Margaret. "The Handmaid’s Tale. 1985." New York: Anchor (1998): 317-21.

Cairns, Douglas. Sophocles: Antigone. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

October 07, 2021


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