A Comparison of "The Handmaid\'s Tale" and "Anthem"


The 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