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Comparing Texts: 'Nineteen Eighty Four' & 'The Handmaid's Tale' How do Orwell and Atwood portray the tensions that exist between the individual and the demands of a totalitarian state?

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Comparing Texts: 'Nineteen Eighty Four' & 'The Handmaid's Tale' 1. How do Orwell and Atwood portray the tensions that exist between the individual and the demands of a totalitarian state? Atwood and Orwell have created texts that reveal the architecture of totalitarian states. Their complex and powerful ideas are the logical outcomes of questions that challenge present situations. They have shown that the essence of totalitarian states is 'control'. By having control, their authoritarian rule expands by psychologically trapping each person into believing that what the state is doing is morally correct. The boundaries of a persons mind under oppression from these states are limited by restricting things that we value most in the present society (such as the freedom of making decisions and speaking liberally), thus making it easy for the state to penetrate each person's beliefs and manipulate them. However, wherever there is a system concentrating on oppression, there will always be a rebellion, and so we are introduced to the protagonists of these stories, 'Winston' and 'Offred'. What makes their role exceptional in this society is their secret rebellion, elusive, to some extent, to the states' eyes. Regardless of the fact that they are exceptional in their roles, they are still odd characters to be classified as 'heroic'. In the case of Winston, as well as psychological, he also has many physical flaws that seem to defy the stereotypical characteristics of a heroic character,'...Winston, who was thirty nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way.' ...read more.


Where Winston faces restrictions that enforces invasion of privacy and outlaw the freedom to think liberally, Offred resides in a society where sexism is a major issue, thus, it takes away many of the rights that she would've had during the existence of the USA. Women are the main interest in terms of oppression from the Gileadean State; they are not trustworthy, even if they are of a high command: (In reference to the aunts) 'No guns though, even they could not be trusted with guns.' (Pg14). This really shows the patriarchy that exists within this society. There is still the sense of 'invasion of privacy' in the state of Gilead with the existence of 'The Eyes', who like the Thought Police in 'Nineteen Eighty Four', monitor individuals in the Gileadean society for acts of disloyalty to the regime. However, this is the only method of scrutinizing each individual's motives, (which compared to 'Nineteen Eighty Four' is not as bad) the rest is left to the residing public of Gilead to report acts of treachery. If you compare both societies, 'The Handmaid's Tale' probably has a lot more freedom in terms of determining your actions; it is not always odd to take a different direction when going somewhere, but in 'Nineteen Eighty Four' the claustrophobia does reach to an extent to which such a move would be scrutinized and a reason for such an action demanded. In 'The Handmaid's Tale' you can still confide negatively about the presiding society: 'Doctors and scientists aren't the only ones...'(Pg42) ...read more.


In the end he was brought to adapt with the policies of the party. To us as a reader, it is a disturbing way to end, but realistically a party that has control to the extent of Big Brother, it is very possible and literally inevitable. But Winston himself would've been satisfied because he reaches the psychological contentment that he was hoping for in the acceptance of a different, more liberated society. He was brought to accept the society of Big Brother, and so reached that boundary. His feelings are expressed in the last quote of the book '...but it was alright, the struggle was finished, he had won the victory over himself, he loved big brother.'(Part 3, Chapter 6, Pg311). What's ironic about this quote is Orwell's Choice of words, 'Victory and 'won', they are only representing to us as a reader 'defeat' and 'loss'. In 'The Handmaid's Tale', Atwood has made the ending rather open to assumptions, you can only assume that Offred was either captured by the 'Eyes', or liberated by an underground resistance, thus making it ambiguous. 'And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light' (Chapter 46, Pg 307), which we as a reader choose to acknowledge a lot better than the ending of ''Nineteen Eighty Four'' because as we find out through the historical notes, that the state of Gilead does seize to exist, which means that rebels like Offred did succeed primarily in accomplishing the destruction of the theocratic Government. In ''Nineteen Eighty Four'' there is no hint of the destruction of the 'Big Brother' Government, and so makes it a lot more disturbing than 'The Handmaid's Tale'. - 1 - ...read more.

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