Margaret Atwood and Aung San Suu Kyi’s empowering speeches have spanned across decades, united in their aim to draw attention to a lack of freedom, justice and democratic rights towards women, their outspoken ideas and reception remain relevant within our changing society regardless of altering values. In addition, both women have shown their understanding of the contemporary form, and use their words in a way that conveys both a particular meaning but also includes a mix of colloquialism, cultural literacy references, and universal symbolism that ensure their speeches are more memorable, significant and resonant with their respective audiences.
Atwood begins her speech by quoting a famous nursery rhyme from her childhood: “there was a little girl who had a little curl”. She uses her personal experience with this poem to present her early understanding of the multifaceted roles of women and to introduce the subject of her speech – women in literature. At the same time, she uses the personal significance this poem held for her to gain a personal connection with her audience.
Throughout “Spotty-handed Villainesses”, Atwood uses many language features and techniques that help her complex ideas get through to the audience. Firstly, Atwood explores the changing role of women in society through literary allusion, paying initial attention to Lady Macbeth. The notion of “spots” in her speech refers to characters with villainous traits typical of the human condition – women are real people, capable of doing ‘bad deeds’. A character with “spots” makes them more interesting in that they have flaws; they are not perfect; they are merely human and are capable of equal measures of right and wrong.
Before fully exploring this notion, Atwood carefully sets the scene by describing – in almost simplistic terms – the idea of what a novel or literature...