• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare the ways in which the Writers of 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' present the Theme of Control in their Novels

Extracts from this document...


COMPARE THE WAYS IN WHICH THE WRITERS OF 'THE HANDMAID'S TALE' AND 'TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES' PRESENT THE THEME OF CONTROL IN THEIR NOVELS The theme of control, either in the dystopia of the Republic of Gilead or the "grassy banks" of rural Wessex, pervades both novels sometimes with an almost Kafkaesque influence. The Dictionary definition of 'Control' as a "means of restraining or regulating," is most obvious in the way the characters are defined by the society in which they live. For example, the Republic of Gilead, the regime under which Offred lives, aims to control its subjects utterly and annihilate all dissenters. It is a pattern of life, "based on conformity, censorship...and terror - in short, the usual terms of existence enforced by totalitarian states"1. More than this, however, Gilead's most potent weapon of control is ignorance. Atwood herself comments on the plight of Offred and indeed all her sex, "her lack of information is part of the nightmare". We, as the readers, are aware from the beginning that everyone is given a specific yet 'blinkered' role and that it is accepted ("nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for"). Everyone, from the Marthas to the denizens of 'Jezebel's', has a specific name which indicates what their role is - that is accepted also. From the wings on her head-dress which only allow her to perceive a partial version of her world, to the "ownership" tattoo on her ankle, Offred seemingly has no freedom. Even her name is sublimated to her role as a "worthy vessel". Each choreographed Prayvaganza, each electric cattle-prod, and each shatter proof, non-opening window is testimony to the society's desire for control of the "transitional generation" to win ultimate control, ironically, by virtually 'airbrushing out' those who contributed to its success. Offred comments wryly, that in future photograph albums, "we'll be invisible...but the children will be in them alright". ...read more.


in a world where Fate seems to have the upper hand: "it was to be". Although at first it might seem as if 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a purely passive account, we can see that the characters are all striving towards a common goal - active self control. Serena Joy bursts into tears on every "Ceremony" night and knits everlasting scarves covered in pictures of children, but attains "her version of freedom" by withdrawing emotionally from the Commander. Offred sees the ultimate value of accepting that her life is not a "paranoid delusion", that she is not "a missing person", because she maintains the "my" in her personality ("my" room, "my" name) which is the most basic form of self-control, that of sanity: "I hoard it, the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes". The imagery of mirrors in the novel reinforces the theme of characters striving for control over their own lives. Offred attempts to catch a glimpse of her face in the hallway mirror, but finds that it is "distorted", and all bathroom mirrors are replaced by "dull metal" which reveals nothing. Offred and Serena Joy are together reduced to mere uncontrolled shapeless forms "in the brief glass eye of the mirror". Her collusion with Nick in Serena's parlour is a self-limiting rather than a liberating exercise: "he can't give me away, nor I him; for the moment, we're mirrors". In a metaphorical sense, Offred conjectures, on the night of the Ceremony, how it must feel for the Commander to 'see' himself mirrored in the eyes of others: "to have them watching him all the time...it must be hell". Significantly, it is only when Offred sees herself in the "ample mirror under the white light" in the hotel room at 'Jezebel's' that she begins to appreciate the reality of an existence outside her own narrow, controlled life. ...read more.


Aunt Lydia herself, at the Red Centre keeps reminding them of "what things used to be like". Offred knows in her heart that "returning things to nature's norm" is a "paranoid delusion" because the state cannot control her memories and "flashes of normality", be they thoughts of everyday tea towels or vivid flashbacks to her baby daughter or Luke's fate. Nick's past memories of "romance" are shared by both himself and Offred, and are crucially the means by which they are able to transcend the feeling, as Offred conjectures, of being "used". In fact, it is Tess rather than Offred who is the victim of dystopian control, because she is, to quote King Lear, "more sinned against than sinning". Indeed, Tess only appears to challenge heroically the accepted pattern of her life on one crucial occasion, with the murder of Alec. Despite the fact that Tess is born innocent into the "oozing fatness" and "open hills" of a potentially limitless world, she is indeed the "absolute victim of her wretched circumstances"7, and cruel Fate overrides and negates that innocence with a few inauspicious events over which she has no power or control. Destiny dominates her life, in collusion with Nature, and natural qualities take on the force of moral values by which the characters are judged and controlled. Hardy tells us that it is social convention, not Tess herself, despite her 'guilt', which is "out of harmony" with nature. Indeed, both Alec and Angel are described as being under the influence of "unnatural" worlds. To conclude, the theme of control in The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' is best summed up with Offred's affirmation, "I am, I am. I am, still". Like Offred, who also asserts that "it's lack of love we die from", Tess is controlled by instinctive responses of love, faith and survival of humanity. At the end of the novel, for example, Tess asks Angel to "watch over 'Liza-Lu for my sake". Unlike Offred however, Tess can never really say, "I have control over the ending". ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Tess of the d'Urbervilles section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Tess of the d'Urbervilles essays

  1. Discuss "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" as a Tragedy

    This has influenced Tess. The most significant trait in her character is that she is able to make such reflections as to amuse even Angel. He tells her that she reflects on such issues which are in keeping with "the ache of modernism."

  2. Comparative Study - Jane Eyre and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

    Her family's intent belief that they are descendents of the 'D'Urberville' family causes them to behave differently, to change the way they think about themselves and other people. This belief is the first factor in leading Tess to Alec, for Angel does appear at the beginning of the story at the 'club-walking' yet fate does not draw them together.

  1. Tess of the D'Urbervilles- A Pure Woman.' Who or what does Hardy blame for ...

    Angel even plays the harp- an instrument associated with heavenly beings- cherubs and angels. Angel's description and affect upon the reader and Tess are intensified more then they would have been, due to having been subjected to Alec's character and his actions towards Tess earlier in the novel.

  2. Contrast the descriptions of Flint comb - Ash and Talbothays, showing How Hardy uses ...

    Flint Comb - Ash is shown as a brutally unforgiving place. It is through this dismal atmosphere that hardy shows when Tess hits the bottom of her happiness. Whilst Tess is heading towards Flint Comb - Ash Hardy shows the change.

  1. Symbolism in Tess of the D'urbervilles

    Which is how we can tell that Hardy is against the industrial revolution, because of what it is doing to nature. Throughout the novel, Hardy makes rustic characters appear friendly, they like to socialise, laugh together, but at the same time are very understanding, and can be considerate.

  2. How does Hardy use setting in "Tess Of The d'Urbervilles" in order to portray ...

    Unfortunately, during the 19th century, pre-marital pregnancy was viewed as a severely sinful act due to the highly religious era - despite it not being an intended act by the soon-to-be mother. When Tess returns to Vale of Blackmoor, Hardy begins a series of descriptive text focusing on the weather surrounding Tess.

  1. Compare how Shakespeare and Hardy present the role of their tragic heroines within society ...

    contemporary audiences as they were much more realistic and not of the idealistic extremely beautiful and noble stereotype. Female characters were slowly beginning to gain freedom, power, and control of their own fate, however by the end of the 19th century, there were still no female characters whose main purpose in life was to marry well and produce a family.

  2. Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy.

    Clare wants Angel to marry a suitable woman, meaning a woman with the proper social, financial, and religious background. Mrs. Clare initially looks down on Tess as a "simple" and impoverished girl, but later grows to appreciate her. Reverend Felix Clare - Angel's brother, a village curate.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work