Subject matter and treatment

“The Ceremony” is the main content in Chapter Sixteen and the most important role of a handmaiden. This ritual like process takes place once a month in the effort to impregnate the maidhand. The wife of the commander also has to be present in order to accept the baby as her own when it is born. Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, lies with Offred between her legs to represent that they are one body. However the baby’s mother is considered to be Serena as she will take care and care for it. Offred is only considered to be lending her womb to the couple in order to provide them with a family.

Chapter Sixteen begins as every other chapter, with a very short blunt sentence, “The Ceremony goes as usual. ” One of the most intimate actions between a man and a woman is considered very every-day to Offred. This is because she does not want to take part and therefore detaches herself from reality in order to keep her sanity. She does this by remembering what she had before Gilead came to form, for example things like Luke and her daughter bring her happiness. This remembrance of the past also, I feel, causes her great pain as she considers what she is missing.

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Also the fact that this is a regular process in her life makes it mundane to her and those involved. She even tries to stop referring to herself in first person but instead starts to use third person. “One detaches oneself. One describes. ” Offred’s description of the process refers to militaristic terms, for example when referring to the Commander as having “a regular two-four marching stroke. ” This demonstrates to reader of how militaristic and unemotional Gilead makes even the most intimate things.

Gilead considers the process of “The Ceremony” as being normal when actually to us, the readers, and those who resist Gilead it is quite horrible and disturbing. This view Gilead has adopted is continued to the way Handmaidens are viewed and treated. They are vital to further the community but are dehumanised and are only valued for their fertility. I feel it would be worse for Offred if she were forced to be intimate each time “The Ceremony” took place. If this were true then it would be harder for her to detach herself and therefore rebel.

Detachment is one of Offred’s only ways to resist and rebel against the oppression she is suffering. As long as she can detach herself and remember memories of a so-called “previous life” before Gilead there is still hope for her, and there is no way to take this away from her no matter what they do to her. Gilead’s rules and regulations are derived from a fundamentalist view of Christianity and the Bible. Therefore throughout the novel there are many references to religion and Chapter Sixteen is no exception.

Even though “The Ceremony” is derived from the Bible it seems ironic that it could be imitative of a parodic version of the epigraph at the beginning of the novel from Genesis. Many religions today were formed from numerous different interpretations of the Bible, however Gilead is shaped from a very literal and narrow-minded approach to the Bible. Anyone who has a different perspective or does not act accordingly will be imprisoned or even killed as it proves Gilead to be based on false foundations.

That is why only the high-ranking leaders are allowed to read and therefore interpret the Bible for the rest of the society, thus slightly controlling what people think. Towards the end of the chapter Offred wonders whether it was worse to be Serena. “Which of us is it worse for, her or me? ” I feel that Serena does not welcome having to watch someone with youth and a healthy uterus, as she is envious of Offred of these things. However the things Serena does possess, such as freedom (to a certain degree) Offred desires greatly.

It is quite ironic how each is constantly being reminded of what they don’t have and are trapped in a relationship of mutual envy. This is showed by Serena’s refusal for Offred’s rest period and the tone in her voice. “Get up and get out. ” However Offred does find something comical about the situation, “There’s something hilarious about this, but I don’t dare laugh. ” “The Ceremony” is a very disturbing part of the novel, however Offred finds it bizarrely funny. I believe that this view makes the reader feel even more distressed.

However she cannot laugh as it would be seen as rebelling, therefore showing the reader at the self control needed to keep out of trouble in Gilead as you have to watch every move you make. There is a constant style throughout each chapter of the novel. I believe Atwood does this to parallel with the regimented style of Gilead to enforce its power of control. Offred also shows many usual characteristics from day to day, again showing the way they are controlled through the novel.