If kindness is being given, it is routinely expected that it will be repaid. It is more common to see kindness being given out in exchange for something of value. It is common to exchange kindness for valuable things such as favouritism, prosperity, and this makes it manipulative. Hidden motives can be used to gain control of not only relationships but also your own destiny. The Handmaid’s Tale’s Offred treats her commanders Serena Joy, The Commander, and her best friend Ofglen with kindness to ensure her well-being. Offred in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale uses kindness and deceit to mask her inner thoughts to fulfill her belief that she is destined to be a handmaid.
Offred’s calm and gentle nature are normal in her position as Handmaid. But Offred’s treatment toward Serena Joy is different from her usual attitude. Offred knows Serena Joy well and has worked hard to live up her matern’s expectations. Offred is well aware that speaking was not the best way to go, so she keeps quiet and serves as a servant. But she knows deep down that she will be rewarded if she does her job well. Offred is a rebel because of this inner belief. Offred acts out in small rebellions, even though she talks and acts the way she should. Offred, however, still considers herself an independent, free-thinking woman. Offred believes this is the key to her freedom. Offred can gain some independence by pretending to be in servitude. Serena Joy will allow her to do this. Offred eventually achieves independence with the help of Serena Joy. Offred receives a cigarette, match, and other small gifts. Offred has to be open to Ofglen’s rebellion if she wants to share it. Offred acts in this manner by greeting Offred with the forbidden greeting “Hello” while mocking Gilead devotees with “I believed you were true believers.” Offred also uses this greeting to greet Offred. By speaking their minds and acting this old-fashioned way, Offred is establishing their friendship. Offred is only willing to share information about underground resistance. This behaviour makes Offred uneasy. Offred only shows kindness to Ofglen to manipulate her. It is clear that Offred doesn’t identify with Gilead, but she doesn’t identify with resistance movements. Offred is a rebellious and kind-hearted woman who does this to protect her survival.
Offred works hard to please her ultimate master, Commander. Offred recalls an incident in which a Nazi guard “wasn’t a monster” to his wife. Offred sees the situation of the wife and compares it to hers. Offred discovers that the Commander is her oppressor, but she can still use his affection for her benefit. Offred builds a relationship with the Commander by showing kindness and accepting his requests to visit her after hours that are acceptable to her. Offred is now able use the kindness of her Commander to obtain whatever she wants. Offred has been rewarded with magazines and moisturizer, which is a good sign that her kindness has protected her future. While she is currently living in the home of Serena Joy and Commander, Offred can rest assured that she will survive because of her relationship with the Commander. Offred shows that her greatest weapon is her kindness.
It is common to expect kindness, and this is evident in Offred’s life. Offred is willing to share her kindness for things like magazines and cigarettes, but also for intangibles like control, affection, and information. The principle of kindness makes it possible to achieve total subsistence. Offred’s behaviour in her relationships is what ensures her survival. It also allows her to take control of her destiny.
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