English Literature the Handmaid's Tale Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Freibert; "The custom of using the handmaid for progeny permeated Israelite history and custom" (Domville, 2006). Legal documents that date back to the 15th Century BC support biblical records of that practice, Domville continues.

In another scholarly article in the University of Toronto Quarterly (Neuman, 2006), the writer explains that Atwood, and outspoken feminist from Canada, insisted after publishing the book that she, Atwood, "invented nothing" in her descriptions of the fascist state of Gilead. "There is nothing in the book that hasn't already happened...All the things described in the book, people have already done to one another" (Neuman, 2006).

But Neuman is quick to point out that not every critic buys into Atwood's believe that this dystopian is plausible. Critic Dean Flower wrote that Atwood's premises in the Handmaid's Tale is "...so lacking in plausibility or inevitability as to be embarrassing" (Neuman, 2006).

But back to the original thesis: it is the contention of this paper that much of what Atwood has portrayed could, in some way, come to pass (or has already happened). Indeed, power could be grabbed by unorthodox and unscrupulous means. And the U.S. Constitution could indeed be changed, altered in some way, perverted in order to justify the bold acts of a power-hungry president. This contention in fact can be backed up with the real world executive excesses of the current leadership in the White House. Indeed, and this is not about a violent coup de teat but rather the heavy-handed abuse of executive power, which, if allowed to continue unchecked, could change the way Americans live.

An editorial in the New York Times asserts, "Over and over again...given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House has shrugged off the legal constraints" (www.nytimes.com,2006). One example is the Guantanamo Bay Prison, where hundreds of prisoners have been kept locked up in horrible conditions without any charges being filed against them (which is a violation of habeas corpus, one of the Constitution's guarantees). When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that Geneva Conventions did apply (fair treatment for prisoners of war), the Bush Administration seemed willing to address the unconscionable evil of holding men without charging them with a crime, but soon backed off of the promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

Another example of executive arrogance that constitutes a violation of federal law and the Constitution was when Bush "...secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans...to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying" (Risen, et al., 2005). Moreover, the executive branch of government set up secret torture prisons outside the boundaries of the U.S. And although Bush later signed a Congressionally mandated "statutory ban on torture" his spokesperson claimed he "reserved the right to disregard" the law he signed, which he did. So much for those who insist the U.S. Constitution could never be violated or pushed into the background so that a power-hungry leader could conduct business in an ad hoc, quasi-legal way.

While these referenced instances of apparent Constitutional violations - and other human rights violations brought forward - do not equal in any way the brutally enforced totalitarianism in the Atwood novel, an honest narrative attempt has been made to back up the assertions made in the thesis of this paper.

Works Cited

Associated Press. "Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery." Retrieved from Newsmax.com, http://archive.newsmax.com.2001.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986.

Daniel, Stacy. "New fault discovered near Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant." KSBY News.

Retrieved December 2, 2008, at http://www.ksby.com.2008.

Domville, Eric. "The Handmaid's Detail: Notes on the Novel and Opera." University of Toronto Quarterly 75.3 (2006): 869-882.

Neuman, Shirley. "Just a Backlash: Margaret Atwood, Feminism, and the Handmaid's Tale."

University of Toronto Quarterly 75.3 (2006): 857-868.

Risen, James, & Lichtblau, Eric. "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts." The New

York Times 16 Dec. 2005: Retrieved December 2, 2008, at http://www.nytimes.com.

Thomas, Pierre, Date, Jack, & Cook, Theresa. "Modern Day Slavery: Lucrative…

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