Offred, the narrator of Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale," passively accepts her life as a Handmaid, or breeding machine. Despite her own inaction, she recalls her lesbian friend Moira, who resisted the oppressive laws of Gilead, with fondness. Yet Moira eventually succumbs to the new paternalistic, theocratic power structure, leading Offred to feel even more powerless.
Resist or Submit
In literature, a foil serves as a contrast to another character. Foils to the protagonist often act and think in a completely different manner. In the case of Moira, her rebelliousness stands in direct contrast to Offred's complaisance. Moira rebels against the oppressive Gilead regime fearlessly, whereas Offred, though disturbed by her powerlessness, complies with her new tasks as a concubine and even goes so far as to break the law at the request of her commander and his wife.
Moira attempts to escape, donning another woman's uniform as a sign of her unwillingness to allow Gilead to define her identity. Yet eventually Moira stops fighting. Instead, she becomes a prostitute and resigns herself to her humiliating new life. In contrast, Offred grows to like the commander. She engages in an affair with the chauffeur and revolutionary, Nick, at the request of the commander's wife's. Offred does as her oppressors command, regardless of reward or punishment; while her foil Moira resists until the Gilead wears down her rebellious spirit.
Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.