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The Handmaid's Tale - The narrator says of her tale, 'I'm sorry it's like fragments, like a body caught in crossfire and pulled apart by force'. How appropriate a description of the structure of the novel do you consider this?

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AS English Literature Assignment 2. The Handmaid's Tale The narrator says of her tale, 'I'm sorry it's like fragments, like a body caught in crossfire and pulled apart by force'. How appropriate a description of the structure of the novel do you consider this? Offred narrates her story in a rather disjointed, fragmented style. Some parts of it are flashbacks of her life before the rise of Gilead. Some parts are vignettes from her training as a Handmaid at the Red Centre, in which she and her friend Moira are subjected to the cruelty of the Aunts. Other descriptions are described as present tense. Offred appears in many ways as a sympathetic narrator, an every woman, who, in the pre-Gilead world of the contemporary United States, was an ordinary, sensual woman, with a college degree, a husband, a daughter and a job in a library. She lost all those blessings as a result of the coup, and is now in a terrible, terrifying bind, a Handmaid in a powerful and repressive dystopia. ...read more.


Furthermore the fragmented structure of the novel is also reflected strongly by the use of atypical language techniques throughout the novel. Atwood unusually uses the present tense to represent the present period of time e.g. when describing their attempted escape where she says, 'That is a reconstruction too' (23:150), and this provides a stronger contrast against the past periods. Offred throughout the novel, and despite being the protagonist, seems somewhat detached from the story she narrates, 'One detaches oneself. One narrates' (16:106), and on many occasions expresses her discontentment at relating the story, 'I am too tired to go on with this story' (22:138). This suggests that she finds it extremely difficult to tell her story even though it may be therapeutic for her to be relating it to others. When lapses occur she finds solace in the past memories she has stored, 'Here is a different story, a better one'. She refers to her past repeatedly and many occasions stresses her great need for Luke, 'I want him so badly' (17:108), even justifying her feelings or reactions to Nick as a result of her loss of her husband. ...read more.


I believe this is absolutely true in that Offred being able to relate her story to somebody else is what keeps her sane. It gives her some form of escape where she does not have to be someone she isn't, yet she can choose to be exactly what she wants; it's her story, her choices. According to Amin Malik1 what makes Atwood's book such a moving tale is 'it's clever technique in presenting the heroine initially as a vice like sleepwalker conceiving disjointed perceptions of its surroundings, as well as flashing reminiscences about a bygone life'. As the scenes gather more details and momentum, Offred's narrative transfigures into a full roundedness that parallels her maturing comprehension of what is happening around her. Atwood skilfully manipulates the time sequence between Offred's past (pre-Gilead) and the present: those shifting reminiscences offer glimpses of a life, though not ideal, still filled with energy, creativity, humaneness and a sense of selfhood, a life that sharply contrasts with the alienation, slavery and suffering under totalitarianism. 1. Amin Malik, Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale and the Dystopian Tradition, 1987 2. Barbara Hill Rigney- Atwood Critic Published by Macmillan Press 1987. Dec 2003 Miss. Slocombe Nasima Begum 12B Pg 1 of 3 ...read more.

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