New Norms of Gender and Emergence of Identity Crisis in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale

Sayyed Rahim Moosavinia, Tayyebeh Behvand Yousefi


Using Butler's theory of gender performativity and her analysis of the psychic form of power, this paper attempts to show how the modification of gender by power in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has resulted in an identity crisis in the female protagonist, Offred. One significant aspect of the totalitarian regime of Gilead is its gender hierarchy that is further consolidated through sex discourse. Sex in Gilead turns into a privilege granted only to men of high social status. Men are presented as normal sexual beings, whereas women are entirely excluded from this discourse. Femininity in Gilead translates into invisibility, modesty and silence. Women are regarded as being sexually neutral and are reduced to means of reproduction. Offred, who has lost her voice and agency in this society, attempts to create her own narrative through which she can exercise her resistance. However, the lack of consistency and her inability to adjust herself to the new values and norms result in an identity crisis, which is represented through her sense of melancholia and the obvious inconsistencies in her values.


Keywords: Gender Study; Power; Subjection; Performativity; Discourse

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