Commander and Offred

After reading Chapters 14-24 in The Handmaid’s Tale, my attention inevitably turned towards the relationship between Offred and her Commander.

Offred is not like her friend Moira, who is basically the symbol of resistance in the tale, but also Offred realizes that Gilead’s society has major flaws. Though Offred could easily hate and very justifyingly hate the Commander because he is part of the evil in Gilead, in Chapter 23, Offred almost sees a different side of this man. The Commander invites her to play Scrabble, which is ironic to me, because Scrabble is a game of words, and the women are not suppose to read or write. But, nonetheless, the Commander does not seem to be orthodox to Gilead’s laws, as he also kisses Offred in the end, which is illegal as well.

Another part of Chapter 24 that I find interesting, is that Atwood almost compares Gilead’s condition to the Holocaust, drawing a line between the Nazis and the Commanders. In the book, Offred recollects a time when she watched a documentary about a mistress of a Nazi. The mistress described the Nazi as kind, and almost opposite of what the world thinks of them today. Like the Nazi, though the Commander is kind to his handmaid, Offred, he is more so apart and “thrives” in Gilead’s society. Therefore, I think that in this section, Atwood displays this complex characterization to highlight the importance of context. Even though the Commander seems to be kind towards Offred, and it becomes easy “to invent a humanity,” (146) he is part of the reason behind the oppression of women in Gilead.

So, with all of these perspectives, it becomes hard to judge a character because no one is a clear cut good person, or bad. I, personally, have no idea how I feel towards the Commander or Offred. I do, however, like the character of Moira, I think that she is strong, and her action of standing up to Gilead and its order is commonly praised. But, I also believe that Offred is strong as well, it’s just that her resistance is in her head, so it doesn’t seem as bold or empowering.

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