‘The true measure of a text’s value lies in its ability to provoke the reader into awareness of its language and construction, not just its content’ The conceptual understanding of a good text revolves not only around its content, but also its language and construction. This notion articulates profoundly within Margaret Atwood’s novel A Handmaid’s Tale as it is, after all, the author’s manipulation of the language and construction which enacts as vehicles towards the reader’s understanding of the content. A Handmaid’s Tale is a confrontational post-modern work of feminist dystopian fiction; it depicts a protagonist’s struggle to adapt to a totalitarian and theocratic state where language has become corrupted.
Without any doubt, language is a powerful mechanism which influence and shape thoughts and the perception of reality, a principle that is used and abused by the rulers of Gilead in order to take total control of the society. Set in a theocratic civilisation, the Bible has become the strongest influence on language, as shown through the biblical reference of the “snake-twined sword”, where the “snake” in the Bible is a clear symbol of temptation in which Eve got tempted by. By using this imagery as a “symbolism left over from the time before”, it exemplifies how through the entirety of the novel, the Bible acts as a literary device to not only manipulate the minds of the people into believing that women are sinners because they are weak enough to be tempted, but to also allow the reader to fathom the ideas of the story itself. Incongruously, it is also apparent that language has lost its initial meaning in the Gileadean society as guards, spies and rulers took on the biblical terminologies of “Guardians of the faith,” “Angels,” and “Commanders of the faithful”. The irony of the “Commanders” being “faithful” when, in fact, they are the ones who keeps forbidden texts and magazines and flirts with the handmaids indicates how the Bible is altered in order to...
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