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The issues of gender and identity have frequently been dealt with in literature. Women have lived under patriarchy for many centuries yearning for and seeking for an identity to call of their own. Gender discrimination, stereotypes have often led to identity crisis. From the earliest of the plays and novels to even now, women have faced suppression in some way or the other. The society functioned with a narrow minded perceived notion of treating the men as the superior sections of the society, they had the privilege of education and to do as they please while the women were the inferior sex and were under constant male supervision.
Women were taught to be submissive, quiet and restricted themselves to household chores only. They were expected to take care of the children and were only ever allowed to learn singing, dancing or learning how to play piano. Marriage constitution has been the sole factor which gave women some recognition in the society, the ones who got married had the privilege to assert dominance on the rest of the women. The gender norms raise a challenge for the women of the society to exert an identity of their own. In a patriarchal society, it is a difficult to raise voice and talk about establishing their own individuality when the women and their children were economically and socially dependent on the men of the house.
Male dominance is a common theme taken up by writers including Margaret Atwood who has managed to capture the patriarchal rule, gender conflicts merged with identity crisis and religious influence in her novels very precisely by creating images of a dystopian world. Margaret Eleanor Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist and a literary critic. Her works talk about a variety of issues mainly power of language, gender and identity, power politics and religion. She refers to her books as the work of social realism rather than giving it a feministic identity.
Atwood created dystopia world in both of her text, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Edible Woman where she specifically talks about the issues of gender and identity. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near future where people are living in the totalitarian state and book narrates the life a woman and her journey of becoming a handmaid while coping up with the issues of identity. The text explores the themes of women subjugation in a male dominated society where all women yearn for an identity of their own and freedom to do as they desire.
The narration jumps from present to past quite often and is from a handmaid’s perspective named Offred. The women assigned as handmaids have a sole purpose to provide an heir to the family, along with this they are also expected to run errands of shopping. Only the children born with no defects are accepted by the people and the ones with any deformity are not however it is not exactly clear to as what happens to do as the narrator’s knowledge in the text.
The Edible Woman is a story of young woman named Marian whose sane and structured world starts to fall apart. She goes through identity crisis and feels disconnected with her body and self. The narration point shifts from one person to the other depicting identity conflict where the fist narration takes over control later in the text. The text explores the themes of gender stereotypes where certain characters are seen defying them as well. Marian feels that by refusing to eat certain food items, she can escape the circle of domesticity that the women have been tied to over the years.
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