ndmaids TalThe two novels, The Handmaid’s Tale and Anthem, are both haunting, first person tales of personal hardship in a closed and controlled society. In this essay I will point out many important similarities and differences between the two books, mainly the setting and the similarities between the two societies in which the stories take place, as well as more important differences between the main characters.
To start I would like to compare the settings of the two books. In Anthem the story takes place sometime in the future after some catastrophic event. Apparently society as we know it was destroyed and the leaders that were left decided that the problem was the individual, that all men are equal in all things and that anything that is created by one person is evil. This train of thought is carried to such and extreme that the very word “I” is removed from their vocabulary. An example of this is found when the main character, Equality-1329, re-invents the electric light. He shows his invention to the scientist and although this invention could improve the quality of life of the people it is deemed “evil” because he worked on his project alone. The society in this book is also strict and authoritarian to the point of dictating what your job will be, to whom you will have children with.
In The Handmaid’s Tale the story takes place sometime in the near future after some kind environmental catastrophe that makes it impossible for most women to have children. To solve this problem some radicals set off a nuclear bomb in Washington during a full session of congress and then declare marshal law. They then systematically took all rights away from women and forced the ones that could have children into camps where they would be contracted out to powerful ranking officials to have their children. These women are referred too as “handmaids.”
Next, I would like to discuss the main characters, in The Handmaid’s Tale and in Anthem. In both books the main characters are basically nameless people, in The Handmaid’s Tale we never learn the name of the main character, because she always refers to herself as “I” and the other characters in the book refer to her with a generic title for her position as a handmaid. In Anthem the main character does not have the word I in his vocabulary so he either refers to himself as Equality-1329, or as “we.”
As far as physical appearance goes, in Anthem the main character is a man who seems to be in good heath since he has a job as a street sweeper and he is able to preform his duties well. Later in the book he finds a mirror, and he describes himself as beautiful.” He also seems to be of good intelligence because he describes his experience in school as easy and boring, and he said that he understood more that the teachers. In Handmaid’s Tale the main character is a woman of who seems to be mildly attractive since she acquires the interest of several men in the story. She also seems to be fairly intelligent because she said that she had taken several college courses. Although both characters are both apparently in good health and both are intelligent, but they have very different personalities and personal goals.
In Anthem the main character is pro-active, he sees that there are problems with the society that he lives in and he tries to change it. He discovers a secret place where he can go and do scientific research and he re-invents the electric light. He shows his invention at a convention of scientists, and when his ideas are rejected he is strong enough to realize that it is he, the individual that is right, and not society, he then runs away into the wilderness in hopes of starting his own new society.The main character in The Handmaid’s Tale is less of a pro-active person she knows that her society is flawed, and she tells the reader that she does not like her life yet she does nothing about it. The high ranking general that she is “handmaid” for takes her into a position of confidence, and rather than use her position to affect positive change she squanders it on cheap pleasures such as asking for a magazine to read, and playing bored games.
In ending I would like to say that although both characters live in similar controlling societies, I like the one in Anthem the best because he was pro-active and he did something about his surroundings rather than just accept what was and go on.