How does Atwood present the Commander in Chapter 15?
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Katie Yeowart How does Atwood present the Commander in Chapter 15? In 'A Handmaid's Tale' the Commander is the most powerful authority figure in Offred's world. He is a high-ranking governement official and he is the head of the 'household' that Offred has been 'assigned' to. The Handmaids are defined solely through their bodies and their Commander and in chapter 15 we see why. The chapter begins with the Commander knocking at the door, the knock is 'prescribed', this gives the chapter an isolated, clinical feel now that the Commander is entering his wife's 'territory' Atwood's use of language here is very effective, she says how the Commander 'is supposed to ask permisson to enter' and how Serena Joy 'likes to keep him waiting'. This shows the reader the awkwardness and power in the Commander & his wife's relationship. Serena Joy in the next chapter is about to have her role as a wife violated, she is taking advantage of the power she has over the 'Household' because in the next chapter she is powerless to the Ceremony.
The relationship between the Comander and his wife is revealed again in this chapter, Atwood describes how the Commander 'nods, in the direction of Serena Joy, who does not make a sound', there is a lack of communication between them and it is on full view for the rest of the household to see. The Commander proceeds to unlock an ornate box, the word 'ornate' is perfect for this box and chapter as everyone is in a complicated situation. The contents of this box is a bible which is 'kept locked up' the way people 'kept tea locked up', tea was very expensive therefore precious, the Bible can also be seen as precious because this society is based on Biblical teachings.However the Bible is almost described as dangerous to this society, 'it is an incendiary device..who knows what we would make of it'. The Commander reads this 'device' and the household are 'expectant...here comes our bedtime story', this adds to this view of first apperances are dangerous, this 'falsely innocuous' man is now reading his 'household' a bedtime story from the Bible.
This suggests several things, the 'journey of darkness' could be the view of this dystopian society which the Commander is clearly 'blind' to,(he fulfills his legal obligations within his household but does so without conviction) and the only person who can 'see in darkness' is a woman, this could be Offred, as she is so far seen to be against this society. Atwood uses language to create an intense and uncomfortable atmosphere, for example, 'She watched him from within...We're all watching him' since he has entered the room the Commander has been watched by all. Again, Atwood uses a similie to describe the Commander: he is 'like a boot...hard on the outside, giving shape to a pulp of a tenderfoot', this is another effective use of language in Atwood's presentation of the Commander. The final use of repetition in Chapter 15 is very effective, Atwood is still trying to evoke sympathy 'Still it must be hell, to be a man, like that' but then she corrects herself 'It must be just fine...It must be hell...It must be very silent'. Atwood is showing that she has not made a decision about whether the Commander is a 'hard' man who is emotionless, if he was this situation would be 'just fine', however if not then his situation 'must be hell'.
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