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The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 10 - Textual Analysis.

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Introduction

English Literature. The Handmaid's Tale. Chapter 10- Textual Analysis. Atwood begins by establishing a dismal atmosphere, '...something lugubrious, mournful, presbyterian'. Offred explains that the Gileadian regime has outlawed any form of contact with music; singing or listening to. The totalitarian regime sees music as a threat to its existence, '...especially the ones that use words like free. They are considered too dangerous.' Music has immense power; the messages behind the music being of great strength. Gilead has not only outlawed songs about freedom but also songs about love; 'I feel so lonely, baby. I feel so lonely I could die. This too is outlawed'. In prohibiting music, Gilead in essence, has banned feelings of love, compassion and desire, companionship and celebration. Gilead exists to rid the world, or its society at the very least, of such feelings. However, music proves to be much more powerful as, like the narrator, not all abide by the laws set down by the legislators. Evidence is given to show that there is resistance to this regime, minute may be, but resistance nonetheless. 'Such songs are not sung anymore in public...' suggest that they are sung in private. However, interestingly enough, it is not only the handmaids which show this resistance; through Serena Joy we see another form of resistance. ...read more.

Middle

Offred remembers the spectacular, highly convincing, moralistic speech performed by Aunt Lydia with regards to their uniform. 'The spectacle women used to make of themselves'. Women would put on a lavish public show to attract men and they were dangerous as a result of this. 'Spectacle' could mean, more so from a male opinion, an impressive sight but in this context Aunt Lydia's definition is the exact opposite; a ridiculous sight. 'Oiling themselves like roast meat on a spit, and bare backs and shoulders, on the street, in public, and legs, not even stockings on them, no wonder those things used to happen to them'. The implication that women are to blame for being assaulted or raped is Puritanical. Her speech is that passionate and convincing that it is not hard to imagine Aunt Lydia actually held these old fashioned, religious convictions in the time before. It is possible that Atwood intended irony with reference to the song that Offred was singing at the beginning of the chapter and the views shared by the regime and in particular the views expressed by Aunt Lydia in this chapter. 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound Could save a wretch like me, Who once was lost, but now I'm found Was bound, but now am free.' ...read more.

Conclusion

'Is that how we lived then?' Human nature is adaptable. Initially the environment had been completely alien to her and although she may not be at ease with it, it has become more natural for her. The narrator from the time before is a representative of a 'normal' woman. 'We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.' Ignorance is when knowledge is lacking and to ignore is not to take notice of. Clearly, the narrator was not ignorant to the changes that were occurring she simply chose to detach herself from it; she chose to ignore. She was what we would call ordinary. Freedom was gained by ignoring and not becoming involved, 'It gave us more freedom'. Perhaps Atwood is being critical of the reader here, suggesting that we as a human race are too passive about issues which could ultimately be life changing or life threatening. Also, perhaps the narrator is also being critical of herself with reference to her missing out on the demonstrations that took place before the regime was fully established. 'We lived in the gaps between the stories.' and this is perhaps what we do as ordinary people in our everyday lives. Dramatic things happen to others. We observe from the sidelines. November 2003 Miss. Slocombe Nasima Begum 12B Pg 1 of 3 ...read more.

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