Language Usage by Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Republic of Gilead Pages: 6 (2355 words) Published: February 13, 2013
English assignment 2.
Explore how Atwood uses language to develop the major themes and characters in the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, and consider the effect this language use has on the reader using appropriate terminology (such as theme, image, point of view, tone etc).

Explain how tensions in the text are developed, illustrating this by close reference to the text. Apply a range of terms relevant to practical criticism (such as psychoanalytic reading, Lacanian perspective).

The Handmaids Tale is a dystopian novel set in a fascistic future America. The book primarily explores themes of women’s subjugation and what could potentially happen if an extremist Christian group took over the U.S. The Handmaids Tale explores themes of women and the various means by which they gain agency. This essay will look at how Atwood uses language to create different tensions and themes. It will also look at how feminism is used in the Handmaids Tale. In the Handmaids Tale, nearly everyone has had their identities striped. Although the more powerful have more privileges than others, all of the others have been renamed and repositioned. The body and its functions, especially the fertile female body, have become more important than education, personality or mind. In the society of the Handmaids Tale, even the powerful live very restricted lives but the Handmaids are more worse off than most. The Handmaids are confined to their bedrooms except for sanctioned outings to grocery stores. Trapped by their low social statuses and fertile bodies, Handmaids barely get to do anything. Feminism originally referred to equal rights for women. The first wave of feminism began in the nineteenth century and was covered with the sexual division of labour. The second wave of feminism started in the 1960’s and was originally known as the women’s liberation movement. In the Handmaids Tale, different roles of the women in the society are explained. The handmaid’s Tale is a straight forward feminist text (Spark Notes, Online). The narrative is set in a speculative future, exploring gender inequalities in absolute patriarchy in which women are breeders, housekeepers, mistresses or housewives. Atwood speaks of feminism from a first person point of view trying to elicit the reader’s sympathy (Dunn, 2004 Online). Feminists would praise Atwood’s ability to illustrate insidious presence of sexism and anti feminism in contemporary society. The Handmaids Tale is often compared to classic novels such as, “Brave new world” and “1984” (Gale, 2001 Online). Occasionally, Atwood draws similarities between the architects of Gilead and radical feminists such as Offred’s mother (Spark Notes, Online). Both claim to protect females from sexual violence. Offred recalls a scene where her mother and other feminist’s burn porn magazines, these feminists ban some expression of sexuality. Offred is the most significant character in this novel. The entire novel is told from Offred’s point of view, experiencing events and memories as vividly as she does. Offred’s story describes her existence in the commander’s home, her despair over her lost identity and the horrific realities of Gileadean society. As Offred settles into her new life, readers become aware of the corruption and lies. In the end, readers are shown the extent of the cruelty and corruption in the Particicution ceremony, in which an operative is accused of rape and torn to pieces. At Jezebels, the hypocrisy of the men who run Gilead is revealed.  It is Offred's narrative voice transcribed into text which situates her as an individual woman grounded in place and time, whose identity transcends that of her Handmaid's role through the language she uses rather than the events of the story she tells (Membres, Online). There is a difference between Offred’s language when she speaks about her everyday life as appose to her real life and memory which is observed through images. In this novel, readers find out more about...
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