Total Control is Impossible

“I want Luke here so badly. I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not, I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name, remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me.

I want to steal something.” (Atwood 97)

As Offred looks out her window at night, she thinks about all her wishes, allowing the reader to understand them better because of the stream-of-consciousness. The society that she lives in is heavily controlled, meaning that she has never been able to share her desires with anybody. Through Offred’s expression of her deeply personal, flowing wishes that sometimes seem unrelated, the reader realizes that a society that aims to reduce a person to a single role is misguided.

One of the striking aspects about the passage is that every sentence begins with “I.”If somebody spoke like this, they would seem petty, but because these are Offred’s thoughts,  they are profound in that they reveal her role in society. The Republic of Gilead emphasizes the role of women as child-bearers and nothing more. Therefore, Offred resists her devaluation by offering her wishes over those of society’s. The passage also shows a struggle against the duality of women presented in the novel. Usually, Offred conveys a distinction between herself and her womb. Here, she emphasizes herself as an individual, showing that she doesn’t accept society’s reduction of her. Society can pressure Offred to act as though she isn’t an individual, but her thoughts are her own.

The sentence length increases as the passage progresses to demonstrate that Offred can have complex desires that go beyond just having a baby. She goes from saying “I want to be held” to “I want to be valued, in ways that I am not, I want to be more than valuable.” Not only does the sentence length increase, but also the complexity of her wishes does also. This progression from short and simple to long and complex demonstrates that society has censured Offred so much that she has to rediscover herself. In other words, to get to her main desire of being valued, she has to use a sort of inductive reasoning. She is able to reach this conclusion, however, illustrating that an individual’s suppression can be reversed.


Offred just wants to be held.

During her gradual rediscovery, Offred seems to jump from one thing to another. For example, she initially wants “to be valued” but then soon after wants “to be more than valued.” In addition, the majority of the passage conveys a desire for a social relationship, but then the last sentence abruptly shifts to a desire for stealing something. This illogical organization of thoughts is important because it shows that people don’t think in a linear manner but are actually complex beings that can’t be completely understood. Consequently, a society that aims to reduce women to a single role fails to understand that this is not human nature. People go from wanting “to be valued” to wanting “to steal something” without reason, and no law or societal custom will be able to control this randomness.

This passage that conveys Offred’s thoughts shows that even a controlling society such as the one in the Republic of Gilead will never be able to maintain total control over individuals. Offred continues to think about herself, continues to explore her feelings and emotions, and displays randomness that is a part of human nature.



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