How Do Margaret Atwood and Khaled Hosseini Present the Oppression of Women Through the Characters of Offred and Laila?

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Atwood and Hosseini both present female oppression dramatically through the main characters of Laila and Offred. Both show females in a corrupt society where the treatment of women is unthinkable for a modern reader. The characters are developed through narrative structure, language and action to create a striking view of female oppression. The narrative structures are integral to portraying female oppression and are different for each text. The first person narrative of “The Handmaid’s Tale” uses a number of different techniques – distancing, flashbacks and reconstruction to effectively present an emotive view of female oppression. Offred’s first person account increases the emotion because the readers feel her pain more directly, “I can remember screaming.” The use of emotive language and short powerful sentences presents Offred’s unbearable pain of being separated from her daughter. Distancing is used, “thoughts must be rationed,” to reflect how Offred is coping within the repressed society as well as emphasising how torturous and difficult the society is to live in. The ‘Night’ sections are patterned throughout the narrative and they help to reveal Offred as an individual to the reader. The character’s isolation “Where should I go?” is both ironic and distressing because her reality is that she is trapped; this emphasises the only thing Gilead couldn’t take away from her old life was her memories and imagination. The reconstructed narrative allows the reader to question the reliability of Offred because it is all from her memory. Atwood uses the “Historical Notes” to provide a challenging voice “Some of them may have been filled by our anonymous author.” Pieixoto undermines the narrative by suggesting it is false, which could allow readers to doubt Offred’s construction even further. Alternatively, the contradicting male voice can be interpreted as an added male domination embedded into the narrative, agreeably this can be interpreted as Atwood emphasising Offred’s repression. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a third person narrative with a dual focus on the viewpoints of Laila and Mariam – the suffering women in the story. The chronological narrative is effective in capturing the emotion of the reader with an epic thirty year time span. With this, and the extensive use of dialogue, “He was perfect. Perfect, like you are,” along with what critics have called an ‘energetic narrative’, the reader is able to relate to Laila as a complex character making the violence and cruelty she suffers from Rasheed and the Taliban regime a highly distressing portrayal of female oppression. In my opinion Atwood’s narrative is more successful than Hosseini’s in presenting oppression because it has depth and texture which helps bring more meaning to the emotive storyline. Both writers present characters that the reader will respect and admire. Laila’s inner strength is shown particularly in the caesarean scene which presents appalling images that emphasise women as worthless within the society. Laila’s strength and acceptance of her life is shown “Mariam would always admire Laila for how much time passed before she screamed.” This admirable attitude is similar to Offred’s inner strength which is shown through distancing and optimism in a dystopian reality. “I am alive, I live, I breathe,” By portraying strong “heroines’, Hosseini and Atwood have increased the feelings of injustice because the women are shown to be strong and determined in a repressed position. The theme of loss in a repressed society is dominant in both narratives. Offred’s flashbacks of life with her child are a powerful element which bluntly shows the effects of the society on the character, “She fades, I can’t keep her here with me, she’s gone now.” The vulnerable tone represents both Offred and her daughter’s defencelessness. This is parallel to Laila’s fight to see her daughter with the violence she suffers “she trudged home, bloodied, without so much as a glimpse...
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