Power

We briefly mentioned power as one of the main themes in the book today, but as feminism was the topic of the day we didn’t really go into it. One passage that talked about power explicitly was in chapter 23 before we learn about Offred’s unusual relationship with the Commander: “But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest” (134 – 135). I thought this was really interesting, especially after learning that the Commander wants to make her life more comfortable, likely to ease his own guilt about the situation. She has a sense of power over him because she can either withhold or bestow her acceptance/forgiveness of his guilt. However I do not think that this fully covers what power means, in general or in this relationship. Especially since when she talks about that relationship she mentions that she can’t forget that he is the one with the power.

After the passage about forgiveness she says “Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing” (135). I agree that getting away with something and being forgiven for it are not always the same. And I can see why forgiveness would be a higher degree of power than just getting away with something – getting forgiveness seems to imply a degree of control over the moral code and when exceptions are made. But that still seems to be about control to a degree. Or at least how has the freedom from control.

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