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Discuss the ways in which atmosphere and suspense are created in the following extract from “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

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  • Essay length: 960 words
  • Submitted: 11/07/2002
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GCSE Margaret Atwood

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Discuss the ways in which atmosphere and suspense are created in the following extract from "The Handmaid's Tale".

Chapter 46 pages 303 -305 "I sit in my room..." to "I want it finished".

"The Handmaid's Tale" is the 1986 Atwood novel, set in Gilead, (formerly known as the USA), a rule-bound society where deviation from convention is harshly punished. The extract I have chosen is from the closing chapter of the novel, where Offred is awaiting the consequences of her discovered earlier misdemeanours (such as having a non-official relationship with her "Commander"). Understandably, the character and atmosphere are tense, and suspense is in the air.

Atwood's imagery in the extract is plentiful and often cosmic or weather related. She mentions "crumpled stars" in the second sentence of the passage, symbolising crumpled and crushed hopes and dreams. The reference to the solar system also shows the size of the universe and how small Offred's place in it is, just as she is a small cog in the state engine of Gilead. Later Offred says "the light is fading", like stars, light is a symbol of hope and life, and here it is weakening. The diminishing glow from

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