The "Penis Envy" by Sigmund Freud.

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In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood alludes to Sigmund Freud's notion of "Penis Envy" through a similar context with a different (or maybe similar?) connotation. Sigmund Freud's view of women stirred controversy during his own life time and continue to evoke considerable debate today. From my point of view, Freud's ideas are down right condescending towards all females and thus should not be considered with too much thought.
"Donna Stewart, M.D., a professor and chair of women’s health at the University Health Network, explained, "Freud was a man of his times. He was opposed to the women’s emancipation movement and believed that women’s lives were dominated by their sexual reproductive functions" (Lehmann, p. 9)." (Psychology ref)



Penis Envy:

"Concerning the Penis Envy: In his theory of psychosexual development, Freud suggested that during the phallic stage (around ages 3-5) young girls distance themselves from their mothers and instead devote their affections to their fathers.
According to Freud, this occurs when a girl realizes that she has no penis. "Girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage," Freud suggested (1933)." ( Psychology ref)
As a girl who had lived throught the phallic stage with a loving father, I would like to argue that while for some girls that may have been true, most young girls did not feel disadvantaged for lacking a penis. And the very few that were seen as envious of their father's penis were not really envious but merely curious. A young girl in the phallic stage is constantly growing, learning, and experiancing. Anything new they encounter will be an object of mystery to them and they will therefore show signs of interest and perhaps utter innocent words along the lines of " I want one too". This does not mean the young girls envy their father's penis in particular. It can be viewed as a innocent "want" for something- a penis just as much as an ice cream cone or a new barbie doll.


Now back to Atwood and the Handmaid's Tale. The theme of Wanting is prevalent through out the novel, especially the desire for the forbidden materials - pen, paper, books....
Here, we can find the quote "A Pen is Envy" (196).
In Gilead only men are allowed to hold pens.
Only men have penises.
Coincidence?
Allusion?
Well, I think it's kind of hilarious, the absurdity of it all :D !