Returning to a Child

I fold back the sheet, get carefully up, on silent bare feet, in my nightgown, go to the window, like a child, I want to see. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow. The sky is clear but hard to make out, because of the searchlight; but yes, in the obscured sky a moon does float, a newly, a wishing moon, a silver of ancient rock, a goddess, a wink. The moon is a stone and the sky is full of deadly hardware, but oh God, how beautiful anyway. (Atwood 97)

In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are no more than reproductive machines and only viewed as substitutable properties of the Commander. However, through this passage, the readers can know more about the inner self of Offred and her deep cravings. Through portraying Offred’s actions and the view she sees from her perspective, this passage sheds more light on Offred’s psychological status and the derived desires which are unfortunately suppressed by the society, and it leads to a better understanding of the narration style of the novel and the humanization of the handmaids.

Firstly, the depiction of Offred’s actions suggests her return to a more original, child-like mental stage. In the first sentence, Offred employs short, repetitive structure and simple verbal use which resembles the talking of a young kid. She expresses her thoughts plainly and directly: “I want to see.” Offred thinks like a child and therefore she talks like a child, without cautiousness she presents when talking with Serena or the Marthas. Moreover, the actions “fold back the sheet, get carefully up, on silent bare feet” imply more about Offred’s retrogression. The sheet symbolizes the chain the society of Gilead imposed on her: she is caged and fed in this room, and she even has a bathing schedule like an animal does. Everything in this room is a restraint, and as she goes “bare feet” and looks out of the window, she is casting the superficial limitations way, facing who she really is and what she really wants.

And how Offred sees the view “as a child” reveals more on the two questions above, and the readers can reach the deepest part of her heart through these lines. The image of the moon has been presented to the readers before, as in chapter 13 when Offred describes how she is totally determined by her uterus: “every month there is a moon, gigantic, round, heavy, an omen.” The round moon signifies the failure of conception and the despair following it, and the new moon here must stand for the opposite – it is “a wishing moon,” a moon that brings her hope, which “does float” in spite of the obscured sky; it is the moon that brings the beauty of the world and shows her the bright side even though it is actually lifeless and cold, which she refers to as a “deadly hardware.” More importantly, the metaphor of “a wink” corresponds to the wink that Nicks gave her on the driveway of the Commander’s house. The shape of the moon reminds her of the attention she gets as a real, living being, and it is an indication of the fact that she craves love from others as much as she craves hope and beauty. This explains why Offred always has flashbacks from the past: her mother, her daughter, Luke, and Moira satisfy her needs for love and care, which are nonexistent in her new life. She wants to be a child, and she wants to be loved, nurtured and protected. She wants to escape from all the coldness, the worrying in life and she needs hope as every human being does. Offred has to partially live in the past to meet those human needs, and this is the main reason why these characters are making such frequent appearances even though they are not a part of her new life of being a machine and a property of the Commander.

Beyond Survival

Humanity has long fought for more than just its mere survival. The comforts that we enjoy today are built upon the strive of our forefathers for a meaning in life beyond the biological instincts of survival and reproduction. As a head of state, I would have voted to go on the offensive against the zombies. From a militaristic standpoint, this feat would be arduous, if not unimaginable. The enemy are not conventional humans that are subject to the same dimension of emotion as all humans share. In conventional warfare, humans try “to push the other past its limit of endurance,” as said by General D’Ambrosia (273). However, the enemy does not tire or is not subject to the same “will” that humans are subject to.

where-there-is-a-will-there-is-a-way

Although General D’Ambrosia was quite apprehensive about engaging an “enemy that was actively waging total war,” there is a certain advantage to the will of humans (273). This drive that humans have towards being dominant in their environment is what separates us from other species and the living dead. Whether this is biological, spiritual, or psychological, it fulfills the function of creating a sense of hope that was much needed. This sense of hope is not something that mere statistics can convey. Surrendering to the enemy and cutting our losses is not a human value, so to speak. Humans have succeeded and thrived when we take risks beyond what we imagine conceivable. This drive paired with the calculative strategy of newer generals is what helped Todd and millions of others feel that they were “reclaiming [their] future” (282). Moreover, the lack of hope was causing tangible problems as mass suicides, depression, and other psychological diseases began to emerge and sweep the planet. By simply planning for a future, humans create it.

Surrendering with White Flag

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Additionally, viewing this event as a war rather than an epidemic is important to improve morale. When fear and suffering are rampant, it is difficult not to victimize yourself, and it is even harder to victimize the cause of your suffering. Putting a face on the enemy, in fact simply stating that there was an enemy, created a pathway out of suffering that brought millions of people together across the world.

To effectively deal with the tangible problem of zombies, to overcome the political and economic constraints in coexisting with zombies, and to rise against our own psychology, a plan similar to the American military plan involving Todd must be implemented. This plan gives the appearance of winning the war against zombies, and often times this is enough to bring it into actuality. By bringing up a different option than simply implementing the Redeker plan and surviving through World War Z, Brooks gives us insight into the complexities that govern policy making and, on a deeper level, what it means to be human.

Citation: Brooks, Max. “The Great Panic.” World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.