Political, Social, and Civil Rights As They Term Paper

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political, social, and civil rights as they are, the notion of possible futures haunts nearly everyone. Potential political realities in the present and not-so-distant future are examined in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale and Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. These novels have become modern classics precisely because of their poignant relevance to real-world social and political affairs. Although both Atwood's and Piercy's novels are at least in part set in future times, both tales are devoid of any significant characteristics that distinguish them from the present day reality. Thus, both The Handmaid's Tale and Woman on the Edge of Time eerily depict life in modern-day America even as they bridge gaps in time. In particular, issues related to gender and to political power are salient in both books. Through the core elements of their narratives, The Handmaid's Tale and Woman on the Edge of Time reveal that male-dominated social structures are potentially devastating and that females are in a unique position to forge more positive futures.

In Woman on the Edge of Time, the protagonist has been systematically beaten down by her family, by her society, and most importantly, by the social and political structures and institutions that are designed to help people. Connie Ramos' own child has been wrested from her arms, and while her poor choices are partly to blame for some of her unsavory circumstances, Connie is not permitted the opportunity to properly redeem herself. Instead, she is labeled a deviant and placed into mental institutions that harm more than they heal. The hospitals are paternalistic, much as they are in the real world, and therefore one of the main messages in Woman on the Edge of Time is that medical care has become a political matter. Through invasive procedures and drugs, doctors can will their patients into submissiveness. Male doctors advise
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female patients on matters of which they have absolutely no personal experiences. By wresting from them their will to choose and forcing upon them their authority, doctors commit acts of political oppression. Women and other oppressed groups of people are particularly at risk for being victimized by such a system.

The Handmaid's Tale presents a similar scenario and similar themes. The protagonist, handmaiden Offred, has also been beaten down by external circumstances and like Connie Ramos, her child has been wrested from her life too. Moreover, because of their circumstances, both Connie and Offred must live without any genuine intimacy and both women remain powerfully alone. Their aloneness underscores the pervasiveness of patriarchal political systems: their ability to bore into the psychic realities of all women. Like Connie, Offred has been labeled, her individuality suppressed. Offred is not exactly in a mental institution but she is semi-imprisoned, unable to do anything without permission. Both their lives are absolutely restricted and both women are portrayed as tools of male-dominated and oppressive societies. Women might be participants in the social structures within the patriarchal society but they are not the root cause of it. Both of these novels address the ability of patriarchal systems to depress the minds and the bodies of women.

Furthermore, both Connie and Offred confront matters related to their physical bodies, especially reproduction. In both books power over a woman's body becomes the most immediate, most basic, form of political power. Connie witnesses the connection between political power and reproductive rights most poignantly in Mattapoiset; Offred experiences the connection first hand as a handmaid. Offred's job as a handmaid explicitly illustrates the importance of reproduction to politics. Offred has lost one of the most fundamental rights of any human being: the rights to her body. Other people tell…

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