Essays

Comparison and Contrast between Brave New World and Handmaid’s Tale

The government in Huxley’s Brave New World and Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, both use different methods of obtaining control over individuals, but are both similar in the fact that humans are looked at as instruments. Human’s bodies, in both novels, are looked at as objects and not directly as living things with feelings. In both societies the individuals have very little and are controlled strictly by the government. In Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World, through issues of employment, class systems, and the control of reproduction, Atwood and Huxley forewarn that in an all-powerful society, it is destined to become corrupt.

Both novels treat humans as items and not as human beings. In HMT, the entire structure of the Gilead society was built around the single goal of reproduction. Gilead is a society facing a crisis of radically dropping birthrates and to solve the problem it forces state control on the means of reproduction. Controlling women’s bodies can succeed only by controlling the women themselves. The society’s political order requires the overthrow of women. The government strips the women of the right to vote, the right to hold property or jobs and the right to read.

The women’s ovaries and womb become a `national resource’ to the society. Women cease to be treated as individuals and rather as potential mothers. Women internalize the state created attitude even independent women like the narrator of HMT, Offred. At one point lying in a bathtub and looking at her naked form, Offred states; ” I used to thin of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplish of my will … now the flesh arranges itself differently.

I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping. ” Offred contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she thinks about it now. Before, her body was an instrument, an extension of herself. But now her self no longer matters and her body is only important because of its `central object’, her womb which can bear a child. Offred shows that she has internalized Gilead’s attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as object’s important only for the children that they can bear.

In BNW, one can see that humans are also treated as possessions but in a different sense. The Predestinators estimate the need for various members of each caste, and the Hatchery produces human beings to match their mathematical figures. This directly follows the economic rules of supply and demand. Through the Podsnap and Bokanovsky Processes, the lower castes are mass-produced on assembly lines to satisfy the needs of a market, just like any other manufactured good. The doctor in BNW proclaims the World State’s belief that human beings are things meant to be “used up until they wear out.

Just as with manufactured goods, when people get old and worn out, they are thrown away. With respect to sexual pleasure, World State citizens are conditioned to view themselves, and others, as commodities to be consumed like any manufactured good. In both novels, the humans are treated as nothing more than `things’ that can perform tasks imposed by the government. In both novels, Atwood and Huxley create the fact that a society’s beliefs can be transformed from repulsion to normalcy.

In HMT, Offred remembers her mother saying that it is “truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations. ” (Atwood 271). Offred’s satisfaction after she begins her relationship with Nick shows the truth of this insight. Offred’s situation restricts her horribly compared to the freedom her former life allowed, but her relationship with Nick allows her to regain the smallest piece of her former existence. The physical affection becomes a reward that makes the restrictions almost bearable.

Women in general support Gilead’s continuation by willingly participating in it, serving as Handmaid’s of the totalitarian state. On the other hand, BNW is similar in the fact that the individuals believe that the society is normal, but different for the reason that they are conditioned to believe that from birth. The state creates a superficial, happy world through the use of conditioning, and escapes from reality such as the feelies and soma, “the perfect drug” (Huxley 47). The citizens of BNW are programmed to enjoy their destiny and contribute to social stability.

Science and technology have created a world where no one ever needs to suffer and the leaders are free to control their flocks of sheep. Like Atwood’s HMT, this novel illustrates a dystopia in which an all-powerful state controls the behaviors and actions of its people in order to maintain its own stability and power. A major difference between the two is that, whereas in HMT, control is maintained by constant government surveillance, secret police, and torture, power in BNW is maintained through technological use that starts before birth and last until death.

The use of technology in BNW actually changed what the society wanted. The controlling state of Gilead maintains power through force and intimidation. The government of BNW retains control by making its citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don’t care about their personal freedom. Although both novels use different methods of force to control the society, both result in the loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions–in short, a loss of humanity.

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