‘The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power of the words it contains’
Discuss the power of language in Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
3- 4 body paragraphs.
Essential: Must reference historical notes
In The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood positions her audience to see how governments abuse their power, exposing the way individual autonomy is often compromised for governments interests. Atwood has created a dystopian perspective of American society being taken over by Christian extremists through the lens of female victims. Thus, exploring the ability language has to empower and disempower women.
Through the use of ironic undertones, Atwood analyses the dangers of complacency and the consequences of returning to anti-feminist movements through the character Serena Joy. In the novel, Serena Joy’s character, based on Tammy Lee Baker, a television personality representing Christian traditional values, becomes a symbol of the consequences for returning to anti-feminist movements, such as Ronald Regan’s foe abortion and woman’s rights campaigns during the Christian Right Wing Movement of the 1980’s. Offred’s memories of who Serena once was, an advocate for a culture which has become beyond her control, allows Offred to undermine the ideologies of Gilead and conservatives through her narrative. For instance, “She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.” Through the overuse of irony and humour as a satirical device and the disarming of Serena’s complacency, Offred is able to use language as a means of resistance to Gilead’s values. In Offred’s descriptions of Serena, Atwood challenges conservatives who believe women should be content with their restricted roles in society. Serena’s last name “Joy” also becomes a satirical representation, as on the surface her name implies that she is content with her position in the hierarchy of Gilead however her resentment and jealousy of Offred becomes evident throughout the novel. Offred says “Serena Joy, what a stupid name. It’s like something you’d put on your hair, in the other time, the time before, to straighten it.” Through Offred mocking Serena Joy’s name readers establish an understanding of the juxtaposition how things really seem and what they really are within Gilead. Atwood is therefor able to evaluate what would happen if returning to a society in which authoritarian men attempt to restore an extreme version of the patriarchy values and beliefs.
Offred in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ cleverly uses words in the attempt to liberate herself from the oppressive, but fundamental, truths and values of Gilead. In doing so, Atwood exposes the flaws within all governments, suggesting that governments are not as all-encompassing and powerful as they perceive themselves to be. Offred tends to undermine the values of Gilead by mocking and ridiculing the men superior...