Chapter One Operation of Disciplinary Power in Gilead
1.1 Hierarchical Observation
Hierarchical observation is the most ubiquitous method Gilead uses on people.ForFoucault,a suitable place of discipline should be able to expose all the disciplined objects tothe gaze of observation.At the end of the 18th century,the British utilitarian Jeremy Benthamcreated the prototype of the perfect place of discipline:the“panopticon”.The center of thisbuilding is the watchtower,surrounded by a round wall filled with single cells.These cellswere permeable from the inside to the outside,which allowed the prisoners inside to appearand be watched in the light coming into the cells from the outside.Such a setup allows asingle observer in the tower to supervise a large number of prisoners.Although everymovement of every prisoner cannot be fully observed simultaneously,the direction ofobservation is only from the watchtower to the outside,and the outside cannot see through.Aconstant and omnipresent disciplinary effect is obtained.Because no prisoner can be sure if heor she is being watched,they must be vigilant in their behavior out of fear of these possibleobservations.Panopticon achieves a new and fundamentally more effective exercise of power,only through architecture and geometry,without any physical constraints.Hierarchicalobservation is an essential mechanism because it automates and depersonalizes power.Poweris no longer embodied in a person but in a certain uniform distribution of flesh,surface,light,and gaze.The mechanism inherent in this arrangement can produce relationships thatconstrain each individual.
1.2 Normalizing Judgment
Normalizing judgment is to restrain and judge the object with specific rules,disciplines,and corresponding regulations and obligations,which is the most powerful method of Gileadsince all they want to build is a different utopia based on the Bible.“What is specific to thedisciplinary penalty is non-observance,which does not measure up to the rule that departsfrom it.“The whole indefinite domain of the non-conforming is punishable.”(Foucault Discipline and Punish 178)Factories,schools,and the army are the most commonplaces for normalizing judgment.In these places,people are required to reach some specificstandards to fit in the same model so that they can learn to obey,tame,concentrate on studyand practice,correctly perform their duties and observe all kinds of discipline.This way,different groups of people have been shaped into a uniform whole.Punishment has thefunction of eliminating differences in discipline and strives to implement punishment andcorrect behavior through standardized practice.Punishment is practice,a double reaffirmationof discipline,thus further strengthening it.Plus,reward and punishment in discipline build upa dual discipline system,creating a periodic and frequent circulation system.The goal of thissystem is to unify the discipline objects,not to oppress them,but to admonish gently,not toeliminate punishment,but to guide better and supervise the discipline objects.
Chapter Two Concession under Disciplinary Power
2.1 Effects of the Disciplinary Power
This section will discuss the effects of disciplinary power on all the individuals of Gilead,including men and women,the ruling class and the ruled class.As mentioned above,Gilead isa giant all-around prison,so being observed and disciplined affects the people deeply.Foucault points out that“certain bodies,discourses,come to be identified and constituted asindividuals”(Foucault The Birth of the Clinic 18).The individual is one of the original resultsof power.Individuals are constructed by power through elements like body,discourse,andknowledge.Identities and characteristics of individuals are the products of the influence ofpower on the body,movement,desire,and strength.The individual has the transmissionfunction,which enables the power to operate through the individual constructed by it.Powerrealizes its operation by participating in the historical composition of the individual.Theindividual is transformed from an active power executor into a passive power component.Incontrast,power is transformed from a tool and means to be exercised into an active,productive activity.Power completes its operation by producing its executors.Therefore,physically obedient citizens,who have no right to speak and have no knowledge,become thecomponents of Gilead’s disciplinary power.
Foucault argues that“discipline creates out of the bodies it controls four types ofindividuality,or rather an individuality that is endowed with four characteristics:it is acellular(by the play of spatial distribution),it is organic(by the coding of activities),it isgenetic(by the accumulation of time)and it is combinatory(by the composition of forces)”(Foucault Discipline and Punish 167).
2.2 Identity Reconstruction and Concession
Human nature is complicated and elusive.However,constructing a social person is notcomplicated.Foucault’s disciplinarian power theory emphasizes the discipline of dividing thebody into different parts,which coincides with Gilead’s plot that people are endowed withdifferent new identities according to the attributes of different parts of their bodies.
In Discipline and Punishment,Foucault takes the training of soldiers in the army as anexample.Foucault believes that the reason why people can recognize a soldier is because ofhis distinctive figure and courage.The image of soldiers is very uniform.They all have broad shoulders,developed muscles,quick movements,and sharp eyes.Their physical strength andcourage are natural symbols,and their bodies are symbols of their strength and bravery.Thesecharacteristics become the basis for people to identify soldiers because soldiers,a particulargroup,have the same characteristics.What casts these characteristics is repeated training.Soldiers are created.No one is born a soldier.Before becoming soldiers,they must haveanother identity:workers,farmers,students,drivers,and other identities.However,afterentering the army,they will meet the requirements of becoming soldiers after a series ofcontrol,adjustment,remodeling,and correcting their bodies.Foucault put forward the conceptof“madmen”in Madness and Civilization.Leprosy disappeared from the western world afterthe middle ages.However,the concept and identity of the madman have been retained.Therefore,the“knowledge”about madmen has also been preserved.The existence of suchknowledge is not to eliminate or prevent leprosy,but to isolate diseases,patients,and medicalhistory,giving them negative publicity.Although leprosy hospitals have long been outdated,thoughts and ideas about madmen still exist.People reject the horrible memory behind themadmen,so they reject the madmen.However,to isolate and eliminate the madmen,weshould first classify the madmen as“madmen”.Therefore,it proposes the concept of identityconstruction.
Chapter Three Resistance to Disciplinary Power............................４1
3.1 Escape as the Resistance from the Underclass..........................................４１
3.2 Disintegration as the Resistance from the Ruling Class............................４5
Chapter Three Resistance to Disciplinary Power
3.1 Escape as the Resistance from the Underclass
Given the relatively weak forces of the underclass people,escaping is the most suitable way for them to resist.Their escape has two meanings,one is to escape from Gilead in theliteral sense,and the second is to escape the direct conflict with Gilead.In the two novels,except for Aunt Lydia,the other three protagonists are from the underclass of or outsideGilead.When they face the totalitarian rule of Gilead,escape is what they first do,and evenresistance is partial resistance under other people’s guidance.
First of all,Offred,as the lowest level person in society except Unwomen,her resistanceis the most cautious.Even at the beginning,if the Commander hadn’t asked her to get in hisroom she would have been far from the awakening of free consciousness.Staying at home isall she can do.Even Martha can offend her easily,let alone face the scolding from the Wifeand the active verbal conversation from the driver Nick.Offred can only rely on Maydayorganization and a few gossips from Martha to stop being afraid.Relying on the thoughts ofher relatives and the desire for life,she tries to survive every day.Then her longing forfreedom became stronger and stronger,and she also dared to think of ways to do somethingfor the Mayday organization.Finally,she got the day to escape from Gilead.Like her mother,Agnes is guided to awaken the sense of freedom and female consciousness.Because ofgrowing up in Gilead,the memory of her birth mother in childhood had blurred,not tomention the concept of the old society.So she has always been the unconditional receiver ofGilead’s rules.However,the key to her awakening is the love of her stepmother,Tabitha.Tabitha is the only kind-hearted Wife mentioned in these two novels.She gave all her love tothe adopted Agnes,told her stories,took care of her daily life,and did not tell Agnes about herdeteriorating condition to not make her sad.
In modern countries,there are very few extreme ways of rule like in Gilead,which isboth gratifying and stressful because there are too many shadows of real society in Gilead.Itmakes us wonder whether we will face the same situation one day in the future.The poweroperation in modern society is going on quietly in a much hidden way.The disciplinary powershapes the subjective consciousness of every modern person with a superb technique ofmoistening things silently,thus bringing the whole society under its supervision and control.Various disciplines may become a cooperative mechanism to effectively and accuratelymanufacture the subject that meets the needs.The subject of concession thus becomes theproduct of discipline.We cannot see any real power subject,but we can feel that a powerfulforce is slowly domesticating human beings.People have gradually become prisoners ofdisciplinary society,both physically and mentally.Disciplinary power relies on the hiddenmechanism to achieve anonymous rule,which is both invisible and efficient.Discipline,concession,and resistance become a cycle of interaction.As is finally reflected in the novel,ahundred years after the collapse of Gilead,there is still discipline and prejudice againstwomen in the discourse of later generations’academic research.Discipline never disappeared.It is smashed into smaller pieces and scattered on the power network after being overthrown.