Political Identity


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political identity Hans Christian Andersen

In the course Y2k and The End of The World, we've studied apocalyptic themes, eschatology, and for some, teleology. Apocalypse, which is to unveil or reveal, eschatology, which is a concept of the end, and teleology, the end or purpose to which we are drawn, are all themes used in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The book is apocalyptic in that it revolves around dystopian ideals. Atwood creates a world in which worst-case scenarios take control and optimistic viewpoints and positive attitudes disappear. It has been said about this book that Atwood's writing echoes numerous motifs and literary devices, such as in Huxley's creation of a drug-calmed society, her characters awaiting execution seem tranquilized by pills or shots.

      Atwood's Book has also been compared to other novels like it, such as Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and the most obvious, Orwell's 1984. These books have many things in common, including the perversion of science and technology as a major determinant of society's function and control. Like most dystopian novels, The Handmaid's Tale includes the oppression of society, mainly women in this example, the prevention of advancement of thought and intelligence, and an overwhelming sense of government involvement and interference.

      The Apocalyptic themes and situations found in Atwood's fictional city of Gilead focus around the mistreatment of all females. Women in this city, set 200 years in the future, have no rights, and get little respect. The rule by way of theocracy in Gilead also adds to the sense of regression and hopelessness in the future. The way babies are brought into the world, only through pregnant handmaids, the idea of a black market for things considered luxuries and privileges all add to the fact that society in this novel is in a desperate state of disrepair.

      Other Apocalyptic themes found in the book can be compared to sections of the bible, particularly the Old Testament. The Handmaid's Tale has many elements of social decline written into its plot. From the way women are mistreated to the way corruption and evil have infiltrated the government and army, to the way the black market plays a key role in many people's lives causing a majority of society to become criminals makes it clear how social decline plays a key role in the book. There is also a strong sense of moral decline in the book. If a person, regardless of sex, doesn't fit into the tight pattern of role expectation, he or she is eliminated, exiled from Gilead, and left for dead. Also, God plays virtually no part in this soulless, sterile theocracy. The Commander locks away the family bible and the only other worship takes place through a computerized prayer service which people order through the phone. The society of Gilead also attempts to weed out all non-whites, even though it is ultimately unsuccessful, while at the same time, it successfully prevents women from gaining any individual identity.

    As you can see, many apocalyptic themes are present in the novel. Planned pregnancy of surrogate mothers, an oppressive government, and an absence of God all contribute to the themes inherent in the story. Although some have called the novel a warning about the future, others claim it is a forecast, the fact still remains that characters in the book have less respect for the officials in society, less respect for the religions that now run the government, and less respect for themselves making the future into a terrible, terrible place.

    The Handmaid's Tale is set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead. Sometime in the future, conservative Christians take control of the United States and establish a dictatorship. Most women in Gilead are infertile after repeated exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste, or leakage from chemical weapons. The few fertile women are taken to camps and trained to be handmaidens, birth mothers for the upper class. Infertile lower-class women are sent either to clean up toxic waste or to become "Marthas", which are house servants. No women in the Republic are permitted to be openly sexual; sex is for reproduction only. The government declares this a feminist improvement on the sexual politics of today when women are seen as sex objects.

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How applicable is a critical e

The word nation has been in use since the 13th century and was attributed more to a race group than a political formation. As there is an obvious merger of the two there is difficulty in showing where the modern sense of the political meaning came into play. The confusion of the two has continued with a difference between nation-state and the arguments surrounding nationalists and nationalism. From the early 17th century the adjective nation wa sused in a complimentary and united sense. Opponents of nationalism would say that it has racial trends running through it. It is now quite safe to say it is in the national interest to nationalize. Establishing these meanings is important when discussing a national identity because myths arise from meanings. To arrive at a point where national identity and Orientalism mix and affect each other it is also important to establish what Orientalism was and is now.Raymond Williams describes the East as the Orient by saying that " Western and Eastern ( or oriental ) worlds are thus defined from the 16th and 17th century ". He goes on to describe teh west as " free enterprising or capitalist societies ". Orientalism has taken on many forms however since it was possible to travel and tell stories of strange lands of the orient. Edward Siad states that " for the orient idioms became frequent and these idioms took firm hold in European discourse ". Siad has first hand knowledge of the peculiar nature of these idioms as he feels that he is both Eastern and Western. These idioms do lead to myths of the orient, myths that manifest themselves in European institutions, universities and governments. Orientalism has taken on a corporate identity. We assume that with learning and the accumulation of knowledge, that scholars improve on past scholars. However the ideas of orientalism are brought about by the forces that gave the orient to western learning. Fashioned by the oriental experiences of many European scholars.
Edward Siad seeks to break down these mythologies with his own fresh eyes. He states that " exile isn't necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary exile means that you can see things with more than one pair of eyes ". This is a reference to his life growing up in Jerusalem then moving to America. Although Siad analyses a lot of writers, his examinations have strong ramifications in other areas of study. He regards a lot of Western writers as arrogant and in contempt when they write about the orient. His position is reinforced when films like alladdin are considered or the Indianna Jones set of films. Here are two examples of Western Hollywood films depicting the orient as a place of snake charmers and magic. With busy market places and monkeys entertaining the uncivilised folk. " the west, the east, the orient, the occident, the european mind the african mind, the asian spirit, the japanese mind, islam, christianity, there is some truth to these labels but most of them are ideological pictures, their contraints, they are fictional identities, the weapons of cultural war ". The west has a field of study of orientalism which the orient does not have. Books dealing with the orient between 1800 and 1950 equalled around 60,000 and there were nowhere near that amount about the west. Siad felt that all western studies of teh orient were bound by " aggressive judgements ". It is as if they are dipicting the east or the orient as having a female penetrability which was in need of the forward thinking of the west. The orient whether intentionally or not was depicted as backward and in need of highter understanding. These ideas of backwardness and savagery were fuelled by the Darwinist theories of the difference of races such as " European and Oriental African ". By 1918 the west held 85 % of the earth as colonies and commonwealths. The basic idea behind this was that europeans should rule and non europeans be ruled. Nowhere was this shown with more outward arrogance than in the British Empire Exhibition of 1903 where the savage and the oriental were paraded in front of vast ... more

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