Structuralism Lens - Philip Chau

The focus of this post will be to analyze how someone with a structuralist lens would see this passage, which depicts the handmaid's first visit to the doctor's office. Looking at a passage through a "structuralism" lens means to find two binary opposites that have a huge contrast and essentially bring out an overall truth.

In the very first paragraph of this passage, we immediately see the narrator saying "When I'm naked I lie down on the examining table" (Atwood, 74) and further on we come to understand that the doctor has entered into the room fully clothed in his "doctor" clothing. As a structuralist, it is clear to see that there is a binary opposite between how much clothing each one of the characters are wearing. Through this lens, the reader searches for the truth and can see a comparison between the vulnerability of the handmaid and the sense of security that the doctor feels. The handmaid is vulnerable to anything that the doctor does, which can be seen when she says "His hand is between my legs" (75). Meanwhile, the doctor knows that he is in a safe space and does not have to worry because this woman is at his mercy and the door behind him is closed so there are no witnesses. By seeing the difference in the amount of clothing being worn by each character, it is easy for the structuralist to understand the truth that less clothing brings out the vulnerability of that character

The first binary opposite leads into two more opposites that a structuralist can see. The first of those, that is brought out through this passage, is the contrast between an authority and a low-class citizen. The handmaid says the doctor could "fake the tests, report me for cancer, for infertility, have me shipped off to the Colonies, with the Unwomen" (76) and this quote further demonstrates the truth of how the handmaid is completely vulnerable to whatever the doctor wants to do. The final binary opposite occurs when the doctor that feels "secure" has "taken off the glove" (75) because this demonstrates his lack of orderly conduct as he is going against the rules. Through this act of misconduct the reader sees how orderly conduct should look like and this further brings out the truth behind the severity of what the doctor is trying to do to the handmaid.

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