The novel "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Attwood tells the story of a near future oppressive society governed by an elite group - men. This society, The Republic of Gilead is at war, blocks external influences, uses propaganda in order to further the ideology of the society, rules by force and oppression and severely restricts individual freedom. However, although it becomes clear throughout the novel that Gilead is a patriachal society, it can be said that the immediate oppressor of women are in fact women themselves, and that the oppressed women are fighting an entirely feminist cause.
In basic terms, the society is male dominated, and women are slaves to this. Even a Wife, the highest ranking woman in Gilead, is defined in relation to a man, her husband, and the handmaid's are defined as property of the Commander, shown by their patronymics, "Offred". Words such as Commander, Guardian, and Angel name men's varying ranks of power, but the words themselves do not reduce individual men to their sex alone.
The society's foundations are based upon the religion "Puritanism", and whilst Gilead is a futuristic society it is deeply rooted in the past; "It's only the more recent history that offends them". The Puritans were a persecuted minority in England, who migrated in order to pursue their own beliefs - they thought that religion was too lax in England. Instead of creating a tolerant society, they created a theocracy, a government in which the church and the state were one and the same. Moreover, they did not tolerate other religious belief systems. .
Puritans had strict moral discipline and religious values, and traditional family values were a big part of this. This included men as the head of a family, reflected by the dominant role of the Commander. In society, the men use religious moral law to justify systematically taking away the rights of women. They use only certain parts of the Bible, for example the Rachel and Bilhah story, which serve as justification for the men's rigid control of the avenues to satisfy desire.