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Discuss how aspects of control are explored in

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Introduction

Discuss how aspects of control are explored in "The Handmaid's Tale" and "The Chrysalids" Margaret Atwood and John Wyndham both write of distopian societies within the science-fiction genre to explore the varying ways in which society can abuse authority in order to gain control. This violent and dehumanising repression is used to create vulnerability and fear among the society as a method of control. The writers use the narrators Offred and David to explore the response to oppression and both its physical and psychological effects. Atwood sets "The Handmaids Tale" in the future with the significant setting of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This Puritan stronghold in the US colonial period had created a theocracy, much like Gilead itself. Wyndham also sets his novel in the future; the society of Waknuk is evocative of the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Adam-Troy Castro says "The Chrysalids" is a novel which "drives Harry Potter, it drives the X-Men, and it has driven a number of other stories about children who find out they are the next stage in Mankind's evolution". However, I do not think "The Chrysalids" only concerns the future and evolution, Wyndham uses this idea to explore the abuse of religion and control and also the narrow-mindedness of those who judge by appearance, a tendency that is still present today. Puritanism and the recurring symbol of the past play a significant role in both novels. Although both novels are set in the future, they both possess societies based on past examples of oppression. D. Lundie comments that Waknuk is "a society of the future with a setting from the past". Extending Lundie's point, it is evident in the simple technology and strict orthodox ideas that Wyndham reminds the reader of the control of an eighteenth century theocracy. Furthermore, Gilead is a reminder of the Victorian era with its obsession with the protection of women as a method of control. ...read more.

Middle

Nevertheless, I feel this narrative method increases the mysterious and sinister ambience, allowing a more personal and subjective view on the experiences of a handmaid. Although Offred is able to repeat word for word what she has been taught at the Red Centre, she fails to be influenced by Aunt Lydia. She is mentioned constantly throughout the novel; it may seem like admiration at first, but the reader soon grows to empathise with the underlying irony in everything that Offred expresses. It is only towards the end of the novel where her hatred for Aunt Lydia is vehemently revealed: "Hatred fills my mouth like spit." Offred's irony throughout the novel reflect the rejection of the society in which she lives; her refusal to be influenced and also her strong survival instinct and determination provides the reader with not only hope but approval: "I intend to get out of here." There is a similar approval of the character of David. Like Offred, David is also trained thoroughly by his father, yet he fails to be influenced. This is shown in David's refusal to accept Sophie as a Mutant for just having an extra toe: "It seemed a very small toe to cause such a degree of anxiety". The reader approves of David's open-mindedness and his innocence. The brainwashing of the handmaids in "The Handmaids Tale" is made easier by reducing them to mere children. Atwood's image presents the training as the teaching of children: "Her fault, her fault, her fault, we chanted in unison". This chanting is almost reminiscent of school children learning their multiplication tables, degrading women to children and increasing the control over them. Likewise, David is made familiar with references to "Repentance's", the basis of the Waknuk religion. He is able to repeat these by rote like Offred; Wyndham's dehumanisation of David when he "mutters parrot-like" reveals the attempted level of control over the people's minds, although we know David is not affected by this. ...read more.

Conclusion

Offred often finds herself in conflict with Serena Joy as a result of the conflict created by the differing levels of control on women; Offred's aversion of her is displayed in her constant mocking and enjoyment of the implicit power she holds. Lack of compassion also leads to conflict in Waknuk, although it is more shocking than in Gilead. This conflict is more personal as it exists between families. An example of this is the conflict between David's mother and his Aunt Harriet: "Tell her to leave the house and take that with her." Wyndham's family conflicts differ from Atwood's power-hungry image. The foundation of "The Chrysalids" is on relationships; Wyndham reflects on how such strict control can lead to the destruction of family relationships. The women of Gilead ironically fight among themselves, but, as Offred's ambivalence towards the Commander shows, women fail to recognise their true enemy - masculine power. As many readers have commented, "The Handmaids Tale" seems to be a warning to young women of the post-feminist 1980s where the secured rights for women were being taken for granted. Perhaps it is also a warning of the returning influence of religious powers; some may argue that Atwood's novel is still relevant today by examining the influence of the Taliban, although I feel Atwood has captured the control which the USA presently holds over the world. Similarly, "The Chrysalids" may pose a similar warning, but I feel it is rather a reflection on the recognition of the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of the world which will perhaps never change. In conclusion, it is obvious that both Atwood in "The Handmaids Tale" and Wyndham in "The Chrysalids" employ a variety of methods in order to reinforce the level of control inflicted in each society. The regimes use violent and cruel methods, positioning people at a lower level by dehumanisation in order to take complete control. Atwood and Wyndham express the nature of power-hungry elites in the extent of their use of shocking and disturbing methods to control their inferiors. Word count: 2, 994 Page 1 ...read more.

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