Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 960 words

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

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

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. ...read more.

Middle

Red symbolises all of the roles of the Handmaid, from their reproductive function to their connections with prostitution. To create suspense Atwood shows the passing of time. This is most clearly demonstrated in the paragraph "Outside, the light ... didn't take long", which uses short sentences, each describing the evening as being later than the previous sentence portrayed it to be to show the speed of time passing, and also the progression of the day towards the night. This again is symbolic, because the night represents the end. Atwood describes a number of things she "could" do in the fourth paragraph of the extract. This creates a "what will happen?", and therefore suspense, as Atwood reels off a list of possibilities, without actually carrying out any of them - "Each one of them (the possibilities) seems the same size as all the others. Not one seems preferable". Offred seems resigned to her fate, especially when she says "I consider these things idly" and "(I feel) ... pervaded with indifference". In fact, this last sentence destroys some of the suspense and atmosphere of the passage by depicting Offred as prepared to tolerate her death or imprisonment, she is placid, apathetic, and simply waiting for "it", whatever "it" may be, to happen. ...read more.

Conclusion

This use of language makes it easy to imagine the narrator as a normal every day person who was catapulted into Gilead, rather than a journalistic view. Atwood successfully avoids the danger of sounding too descriptive and authoritative, not just during this passage but in the entire novel, giving the narrative a more realistic undertone and setting the book apart from most science fiction. This choice of language adds to the suspense of the passage because the feelings described are genuine, we know they are not just there for effect or drama. This effortless clear-cut and realistic dialogue runs throughout the entire novel, accentuating and validating the feelings and events described. The extract clearly has depressing and desolate undertones, with Offred's despair at its most prevailing at any point within the novel, as she is hopelessly resigned to her fate. The passage, however, avoids the trap of being dull and despondent, as would be easy to fall into at such a pessimistic point in the novel. Atwood's imagery, sentence structure and language, bring the passage to life and prevent it from being gloomy and grey, instead creating an atmosphere of suspense. ...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 Margaret Atwood 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 Margaret Atwood essays

  1. In What Ways Does Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, and Atwood's The Handmaids Tale explore ...

    If Winston does not learn to control his expression he will most certainly be caught by the Thought Police and "vaporised". Gilead and Big Brother oppress their subjects in many different ways. Not only do they try to restrict an individual's movement and thought, they also aim to restrict the whole of society.

  2. What do you find interesting about the ways in which Margaret Atwood presents relationships ...

    Neityer women nor men have sexual freedom within the new system, relationships of all kinds, including friendships are controlled and dictated. Promiscuity is considered a precursor of rape. This puritanical view of relationships bears much resemblance to many religious values from many different religions.

  1. 19th Century short stories - womens rights

    The men make Tanya seem even more goddess-like with their descriptions of her. At the end of the story the men change how they speak about Tanya, "We will find out how pure and chaste the vessel is" which takes away any of Tanya's sexual identity away.

  2. What analysis of the female role does Margaret Atwood offer in ' The Handmaid's ...

    Moira to represent a particular type of young feminists that were active in the 1980's. These women strongly believed that men were the enemy. Moira is Offred's symbol of hope and normality, shown when Moira first enters the 'Red Centre' still wearing her jeans, and declares 'this is a loony bin.'

  1. Compare the ways in which narrative perspectives vary in 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' and ...

    Finally, Ackroyd also includes an entirely neutral narrative technique where the speech is dictated by a play-like script, showing a realistic conversation in full, without any bias. These techniques are different from 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', where we are influenced by the author's third person narrative throughout the novel but Fowles does adopt different roles as the narrator.

  2. What light do the Historical Notes shed upon The Handmaid's Tale?

    Pieixoto does not observe that however much Gilead is efficient in its oppression of its population, it cannot obliterate Offred's will to exist independently of mindless orthodoxy. "Gilead is within you"4, the protagonist is often told. She recognises that she does not have the liberty to retain her original name, but she does so nonetheless.

  1. Offred's Narrative - What is the purpose and function of the 'Historical Notes' and ...

    This is significant because he only had two female characters and one of those characters was the Wife of Bath who's prologue argues the importance of female experience over male authority, the significance of Offred's experience is invalidated by the power of the male authority in 2195 plus the identity

  2. How does the extract affect the whole story? ("The Persimmon Tree" by Marjorie Barnard)

    that is "intricate and rich" (par.12). It is, in my view, the outside world in miniature - wonderful, lively, full of changes, complex but beautiful. However, the narrator does not enjoy being part of the world because as she claims, she "[has] been out of things for quite a long time and the effort of returning was still too great."

  • Over 180,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work

Marked by a teacher

This essay has been marked by one of our great teachers. You can read the full teachers notes when you download the essay.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review on the essay page.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review under the essay preview on this page.