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What is the Significance of the Scrabble Game to the Development of the Novel The Handmaids Tale?

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Introduction

What is the Significance of the Scrabble Game to the Development of the Novel ?The Handmaid?s Tale?? The Handmaid?s Tale, on the surface, is a feminist text. However, it employs other themes and literary devices in driving forward the themes of patriarchy and gender suppression. One of such themes is the power of language. As seen in the novel, language can be used both as an instrument of suppression and as a tool for liberation. The scrabble game in Chapter 23 and the events surrounding it, when viewed in the context of the authoritarian state of Gilead foreshadow a notable shift in the development of the plot. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to explore the inherent symbolism it carries, I will also explore the words Offred spells out during the game and conclude by highlighting the significance of those events to the plot of the novel. Atwood?s use of scrabble as imagery in ?The Handmaid?s Tale? is by no means isolated. Her poem ?Spelling? begins with a similar sort of symbolism. ?My daughter plays on the floor with plastic letters? she writes, going further to state that ?A word after a word after a word is power?. ...read more.

Middle

?Valance? is a type of window covering, also denoting the illicitness of the relationship she was having with the Commander. The word ?quince? however provides an interesting meaning. Although the Bible does not specifically name the specific type of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, some ancient texts suggest Eve?s fruit of temptation might have been a quince.[1]This seems to fit perfectly into the continuous use of language with religious overtones in The Handmaid?s Tale. The word could also be seen as the use of sarcasm to emphasise her freedom to display wit. The word ?Zygote?, a fertilised egg, has obvious connections to her role in the society of Gilead. The choice of the word could be a reflection of the fact that she was still a part of that society and therefore governed by the social expectations enforced upon her. The lack of ambiguity in the choice of this world could also imply a sort of boldness, seeing as the Commander could easily understand it. ...read more.

Conclusion

The scrabble game is a satirical view to Atwood?s new society, highlighting the ills of censorship and suppression. It also presented an irony, exposing the hypocrisy of the state of Gilead and making a mockery of the proponents of conservative gender roles in society. The understated irony however, is seen in Offred?s first comment on the credibility of her storytelling. ?As I said, this is a reconstruction? Offred stated, leading the reader to doubt of her account of the events. The reader never finds out if the scrabble game was real or whether it was wishful thinking on her part. To further buttress this point, the origin of the word ?scrabble? means to ?to grope frantically?[2], leaving a chance that the Offred?s record of the event was snide sarcasm. What we do know however, is that whatever happened in the room with the Commander led to a change in Offred?s perception of Gilead, and moves the direction of the plot away from the long introduction to Gilead she had being giving in the preceding chapters. ________________ [1] T. Ellis-Christensen ?What is Quince?, (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-quince.htm ) [2] National Scrabble Association, ?The History of Scrabble?, (http://www.scrabble-assoc.com/info/history.html ) 2011. ...read more.

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