Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, written in the 1980s, is a highly complex post-modern dstopian text that explores the issues of feminism. The dystopian genre attacks the myth of a utopia, bringing all possibilities to an extreme while the term post modernism explores the consequences of monocracy on modern society and the dynamics of language. Atwood’s use of a female perspective on a hypothetical dystopian society enables her to pursue the controversy of feminism, the impact of power play in a patriarchal society on individuals and the subjective nature of narrative. A better understanding of the text can be gained from the study of Atwood’s execution of language to portray meanings and the role language plays in the narrator’s to survival oppression.
Atwood shows that language is a very powerful mechanism that asserts personhood and allows resistance against oppression. Despite being subject to reduction as a handmaid, Offred manages to maintain control over her narration; as exemplified in her construction of her multiple narratives to generate hope and purpose in life. The repetition of “I also believe” suggests the endless possibilities of her narrative and her reliance on her fantasy to reassure herself about the future. This also reminds the reader that Offred’s narrative is a reconstruction of information and feelings. The pronoun, “I” affirms Offred’s will power as well as her initiative to gain control. Descartes’ declaration “I think, therefore I am” integrates well with Offred’s circumstance where she is developing a new self as a documentation of her old self within her narratives. The conflict between Offred’s past and present through her constant reference of her previous life reinforces the interconnection between reality and memory. Furthermore, on psychological level, the multiple truths she holds give her advantage over the actual truth. “Whatever the truth is, I will be ready for it.” Offred’s multiple and co-existing narratives are means for her to prepare herself for any truth or reality. Atwood’s continuous in-stabling of the narration and her attempt to interrogate responders into Offred’s perspective to achieve the process of reading and interpretation underlines the power of language as a key to endless possibilities.
The limitation of female narratives as paralleled to the subjective nature of language as mention previously highlights the objectification of women in a patriarchal male dominant society. This is evident in the presumed contradiction between the narrative and the scholar’s tale. “It is impossible to say a thing the way it was, because what you say can never be exact…too many.” The use of second person narration is forcing the responders to reassess the reliability of information, whether it is first hand or not. The repetition of “too many” reveals the multiple interpretation of narrative. This idea that nothing can be truly objective is supported by the scholar who translated Offred’s tape. “This item – I hesitate to use the word document – ” The objectification of female narration is again implied by the word “item”; Offred’s discourse is treated as an object with high historical value. Atwood is revealing how the value of women is imposed by male. The use of dashes as an interruption of the speech demonstrates male’s inclination to control female narratives according to his intention. The hesitation over the word “document” further emphasises the subjectivity of language and narration. Hereby, Atwood is underlining the ultimate concern about the inescapable manipulation of female narration under this patriarchal society.
Moving on to feminist issues, the text has a great emphasis on the imbalance of power between male and female through the study of their language and visibility in the dystopian society. Gilead’s restriction of speech on women is demonstrated in the rigidity of their dialogue to show their lack of individuality....