The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Essay Example
When an individual looks back at their past, it is evident regrets and triumphs have created their current identity. Those that use past experiences to their favour are met with success and gratification. In “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, she explores the ways in which the Commander uses past regrets and triumphs to make future decisions. The Commander is an interesting character that sympathizes much more with the Handmaids in contrast with the other high-class citizens. This sympathy allows his regrets and satisfaction to get the better of him, resulting in unexpected calamity. Throughout the novel, regret creates negative sentiments to prior events which affect future decisions, satisfaction encourages the overconfidence of individuals leading to unwise choices, while ignorance of the past leads an individual to repeat mistakes. Making wise decisions becomes challenging when individuals struggle against their regrets to find satisfaction. These past influences lead to misfortune and disappointment when an individual disregards their previous experiences in their decision making.
Regret causes negativity surrounding former events, consequently affecting decisions made by an individual. Regrets often impact later actions by people. It can become imperative to them if those regrets affect life-altering decisions. The Commander frequently regrets decisions made in the formation of Gilead. He is a large reason behind the discrepancies between the rich and poor or amongst men and women in this society. In the meeting between Offred and the Commander, he’s evidently uncomfortable in their presence. The Commander walks in and “manages to appear puzzled, as if he can’t quite remember how we all got in here.” (p.82). The expressions he formed highlights how the Handmaid’s presence surprises him. He mainly regrets the decision made by a government he controls. The decision to force fertile women to participate in the process of procreation does not sit well with him. Although he holds a position of power, he sympathizes with the Handmaids. He understands that their lives are far from easy, essentially being slave work for society. The slave work refers to the sexual acts alongside the pregnancy. His tense demeanor to the Handmaid contrasts with his eventual befriending of Offred. The signs of regret in earlier portions of the novel foreshadow choices the Commander makes with Offred. Once the pair become acquainted, they somewhat develop a platonic relationship. The Commander invites Offred to his office, guilt being the reason behind his actions. He wants her life to be bearable, asking her “what [she] would like to read tonight” (p.172) allows her to feel normal again. The guilt stemming from earlier chapters is finally being acted upon in this chapter. Despite the laws prohibiting relationships between a Handmaid and Commander, he continues to please their mutual need for companionship. Moreover, it is illegal for a Handmaid to read or write. An offer from the Commander emphasizes how he is not concerned about the repercussions of his actions. This represents the wave of guilt overpowering his need for security and safety. He makes a conscious choice to entertain Offred, whether physically or mentally. These choices were made with feelings of regret and guilt in mind. The Commander questions Offred on how her life could be improved upon, leading to the various visits. He engages in intellectual conversations, while also respecting Offred. Although he feels guilty, the visitations were a method of releasing his regret. It increased his sense of pride, which also becomes a factor when making decisions.
Complacency magnifies feelings of overconfidence that guide clueless figures into making unwise decisions. It is widely known that having success occasionally causes individuals to make reckless decisions. It originates from the inflated pride and egos of certain characters. The Commander possesses a large ego which compels him to make bad decisions to protect it. Offred visiting his office shows how he accomplishes this. In the visits, the Commander “sometimes turns on his short-wave radio, displaying before [Offred} a minute or two of Radio Free America, to show [her] he can.” (p.197). He has great pride in the power he owns in Gilead. Because the Commander is a part of the elite, he usually follows ideologies that see others as inferior. Although he sympathizes with Offred, he still sees himself as superior. The gesture of showing her the radio is a way of showing off his privileges. He most likely feels gratified by these small deeds, further protecting his ego. As the novel progresses, the Commander becomes much more reckless in behaviour. He breaks more rules, allowing Offred to follow along for more experiences with him. In the latter half of the novel, he allows Offred to accompany him to a club. Offred recognizes that “[the Commander] is showing off. He is showing [her] off, to them,” (p.221). In the club, the Commander shows off Offred to the various men there. He uses her to show them that he can get away with breaking the law. His ideologies have built hypocrisy within the elites of Gilead. The Commanders throughout the novel have preached for an authoritarian society that strictly follows religious values. Yet, in this scene, they break countless rules regarding the sexual desire and security of the Handmaids. Conversely, there is no reason for the Commander to break these regulations with the exception of personal satisfaction. The Commander gets enjoyment from the ridicule of Offred and the Gileadan society along with his show of power. From his actions, it becomes apparent that decision-making becomes obscured as his pride grows. It quite possibly might be his foolishness, or perhaps his need to fuel his ego.
Ignorance of life experiences often compels individuals to repeat past mistakes. Throughout the novel, the Commander battles with the personal ignorance of the past. He battles this throughout his workplace, with many controversial values brought back in Gilead. Furthermore, past mistakes are explored once more by the Commander. His ignorance becomes apparent while he socializes with Offred. She questions about the previous Handmaid, to which he replies, “she hanged herself.” (p.175). Consequently, it is revealed that Serena Joy caught the Commander and previous Handmaid socializing in the office. As readers know, these relationships are forbidden in Gileadan society. It becomes clear how ironic the new situation Offred is in. One would expect the Commander to prevent the past however, he does the exact opposite. Instead, the Commander continues relations with the new Handmaid, Offred. Despite the dangers of his actions, he makes the conscious choice of ignoring them. In future chapters of the novel, this interaction elucidates the notion that ignorance leads to failures and disappointments. Confirmation of this occurs in the final chapter. Mirroring the events of the last Handmaid, Serena discovers the visits between the Commander and Offred. As Offred leaves the house for the final time, she catches a glimpse of the Commander “[looking] worried and helpless, but already withdrawing from [her],” (p.276). Atwood uses this interaction as an homage to the first interaction between Offred and the Commander. The novel comes full circle, with the Commander full of guilt and regret. In accordance, the consequences of his prior actions are the misfortunes realized in this chapter. His mannerism towards the situation shows disappointment, while also not taking full responsibility. Men like the Commander in Gilead, rarely take responsibility for their actions. Traits like this stem from an individual that is brought up with superiority and high status. The Commander neglects the repercussions of his actions, in spite of the fact that he has been through the experience already and dealt with its consequences. Earlier events of the novel showed a confident commander with great bravado. Whereas in the end, he seems defeated and disconnected from life. The absence of analyzing a developing situation and identifying its correlations with the past ultimately led to his despondency and affliction.
Making prudent decisions becomes challenging as individuals struggle against their regrets to find eventual gratification. These previous influences lead towards tribulations and dissatisfaction when an individual neglects their past ordeals in their decision-making. Regret forms negative connotations surrounding a past event that affects future choices, instances of satisfaction increase the overconfidence in an individual which leads towards illogical decisions, while disregard for past events causes an individual to repeat past errors. If individuals utilized their regrets and triumphs to their advantage, they would be met with increasing satisfaction, unlike the Commander.