Structuralism - Maxwell Hu

This passage will be analyzed through the lenses of structuralism. The following binary opposites help to develop a truth.

Justice and Evil: When Aunt Lydia announces the particicution, they have two Guardians, a symbol of just carrying another guard in. “Two Guardians, not the same ones that have taken away the rope, come forward now from behind the stage. Between them they half carry, half drag a third man. He too is in a Guardian’s uniform, but he has no hat on and the uniform is dirty and torn.”(349) According to the Aunts story, a Guardian was persecuted for rape and murder of a women and her unborn child.“He was once a Guardian. He has disgraced his uniform. He has abused his position of trust”(348). At this point this man has become a symbol of evil for the Handmaids. This contrasts a symbol of justice (clean guardians) with an evil symbol (dirty, murderous guardian).

Order and Disorder: The crowd of Handmaids begins getting riled up by Aunt Lydia after hearing about the apparent murder of a mother and child.
“You know the rules for a Particicution,” Aunt Lydia says. “You will wait until I blow the whistle. After that, what you do is up to you, until I blow the whistle again. Understood?”(347). At this point the crowd is still relatively in order, but later after she blows the whistle, the tension rises then everything explodes into chaos. “There’s a surge forward, like a crowd at a rock concert in the former time, when the doors opened, that urgency coming like a wave through us. The air is bright with adrenaline, we are permitted anything and this is freedom, in my body also, I’m reeling, red spreads everywhere”(349). Order is complete absent at this point with the Handmaids in a mad scramble to deal whatever punishment they can to the man. This shows how order can be broken with emotions and once those disappear, order can come back.

Illusion and Reality: When the crowd rushes to attack the man, Offred describes “Ofglen is shoving through the women in front of us, propelling herself with elbows, left, right, and running towards him. She pushes him down, sideways, then kicks his head viciously, one, two, three times, sharp painful jabs with the foot, well aimed.” (349). Offred is horrified and begins to feel “shock, outrage, nausea. Barbarism.”(350). However according to Ofglen, he actually political rebel “’Don’t be stupid. He wasn’t a rapist at all, he was a political. He was one of ours. I knocked him out. Put him out of his misery. Don’t you know what they’re doing to him?’”(350). These are opposites because it seems very direct what Ofglen was doing to that man, however it was an illusion as Offred soon discovers and that the reality was that she was putting him out of his misery. This tells us that the truth requires a little bit more information than simply observing, but when other information is given, the illusion is broken to reveal the reality.

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