The first chapters of the Handmaid’s Tale paint a dark picture of what it means to live in the Republic of Gilead. While in Persepolis, the women in Iran were incredibly restricted in how they could behave and present themselves in public, the women of Gilead, especially the Handmaids, are not nearly given the amount of freedom that Iranian women have. The Handmaids in Gilead exist simply as property of the state, and have no autonomy over themselves. It is incredibly jarring as a reader, especially coming from a western perspective, to see women treated this way in a fundamentalist society.
I think the most important element of the opening chapters, though, and the book as a whole, are Offred’s flashbacks. We learn that she not only lives in a society that treats her so cruelly and dehumanizes, her, but she remembers living in a world that closely resembles our own. Offred has not lived her whole life in Gilead and has not only existed as a Handmaid. There was a time in which she did not know what this life was, and we know this given the perspective of the first chapter when she is in the gym with the other women as they discretely share their names with one another in hope to evade the Aunts. this is incredibly important because we ourselves like to think that our society is well founded enough and that we have systems in place to prevent something like Gilead from taking reality. However, I find that the most terrifying part of the beginning of The Handmaid’s Tale to be the fact that this kind of society was not always considered normal, however it was entirely possible for these extreme views to come into fruition and be imposed on the people.