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This is perhaps most prominently seen in Offred’s acceptance of the regime’s room designation. When Offred is first describing her room, she refuses to call it hers (‘not my room, I refuse to say my’). This separation from the regime displays Offred’s desire for autonomy. Significantly later in the novel, Offred does actually assume possession of the room (‘was he in my room? I called it mine’). This assumption of aspects of the regime is also seen in Offred being subject to the Aunts’ indoctrination. For example, she follows the instructions to simulate childbirth in her free time (‘You can always practise, said Aunt Lydia […] that’s what I hear now, in my head, as I lift, tilt, breathe’) and, after prompting from an Aunt again, Offred chants, in unison with other Handmaids, ‘Crybaby. Crybaby. Crybaby.’ after Janine has confessed about being raped. Offred comments that, instead of expressing a loyal reluctance, ‘we [Offred and the handmaids] meant it, which is the bad part’. Thus, by showing us reality through Offred, firstly as autonomous and then, later, her quick descent into indoctrination and subordination at the hands of the regime, Atwood illustrates the susceptibility of the common man or woman to the hands of such oppression. She highlights the rapidity of the metamorphosis of personality when subjected to enforced group consciousness and corrupt authority. As a result of Offred’s apparent lack of overt subversion, critics, such as Bouson, have described her, not as a heroine, but ‘the victim of circumstances, not an active agent capable of controlling her own life’. Whilst this may support the notion that Atwood sought to portray the effects of oppressive regimes on the ordinary person, it fails to acknowledge Offred’s acts of resistance and, arguably, in turn, heroism, that are akin to Broszat’s alternative argument of Nazi Germany resistance – ‘Resistenz’ – which highlights the little acts of opposition (wearing make-up, listening to jazz etc.) rather than the overt. Such resistance can be seen in Offred’s display of sexual provocation (‘I move my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me. It’s like […] teasing a dog with a bone out of reach’), something that she comments on: ‘a small defiance of rule […] such moments are possibilities, tiny peepholes’. The metaphor of little acts of subversion as ‘peepholes’ suggests not only the all-encompassing quality of the regime’s oppression, but also the significance of ‘a small defiance of rule’ – through such acts she displays how not all power is lost (‘I enjoy the power, power of a dog bone, passive but there’), that these are ‘peepholes’ to a life before the regime. Therefore it can argued that by channeling our perception of reality through Offred, Atwood, rather than creating a fatalistic attitude as stated by Bouson, offers a token of hope: she magnifies and attaches value to minutiae to suggest, perhaps, that there exists covert ways of overcoming such oppressive regimes.
The reliability of the reality we are given in the two novels must be questioned, however.
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