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Subverting the Power

The most striking part of this section of The Handmaid’s Tale in my opinion was Offred’s recollection of Moira’s escape from the Red Center. Moira caused a toilet to overflow in order to distract Aunt Elizabeth, and then Moira jabbed something into Aunt Elizabeth’s ribs in order to get her into the furnace room. Moira tied up Aunt Elizabeth and stole her clothes. She used to pass to walk freely out of the Red Center and no one has seen or heard from Moira since then. She is the only woman that we have seen so far in the book who has actively rebelled against the Republic of Gilead. What she lacks in physical strength is made up for in her ability to outwit the system of oppression.

The nature of Moira’s rebellion was what really made this chapter stick out to me. The Republic of Gilead oppresses the women by forcing them into a caste system and projecting what caste they are in based on the clothes and colors that they wear. They are trapped in these roles and they are forced to project this oppression through their clothing. Moira, on the other hand, uses this system to her advantage and is able to use Aunt Elizabeth’s clothes to secure her freedom from the Red Center. If it were not for the oppressive systems and cultures of Gilead, this tactic would not have worked and Moira would not have been successful in her escape. What was once used as a symbol of domination over the women of Gilead became the vehicle for one woman’s escape. The subversion of this symbol of power is especially important because one of the hallmarks of the Republic of Gilead is being used against the institution itself.

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  1. Nora Apt Nora Apt

    I think you captured the essence of this rebellious act really well; specifically, the sentence “what was once used as a symbol of domination over the women of Gilead became the vehicle for one women’s escape.” To some extent, this rebellion parallels Marji’s decision in Persepolis to defy the standard dress protocol of the regime in Iran. In both works, an outlet of creative expression gets suppressed by authority; however, this restraint ultimately drives a greater desire to rebel.

  2. Rachel Nugent Rachel Nugent

    I too was very struck by how powerful the scene of Moira’s breakout was. Even though we as readers only interact with Moira through memories, I think it’s easy to connect with her and the overwhelming sense of pride I felt when she broke out was not unexpected for me at all. It’s clear that the other women, at least from Offred’s perspective, also latched onto the story of Moira’s escape and use it as a little shred of hope, so it becomes something to propel them forward and keep them sane, thinking maybe someday they too can find a way out.

  3. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    I like your comment about how it is the aspects of the oppressive system (i.e. the clothing) that allows Moira to escape the system. I am interested in other ways this system leads to ways for women to exploit it in the future.

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