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AS and A Level: The Handmaid's Tale
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- Marked by Teachers essays 2
On the floor of the room there were books, open face down, this way and that, extravagantly." Atwood presents Offred's intelligence and her appreciation of words and language as a way of expressing herself and remaining true to her past. Atwood's presentation of a future where women's only function is as vessel for childbirth has a deeper poignancy considering over the past 50 years women have been fighting for freedom, equality, and to be considered on an equal intellectual level as men. It seems that Atwood believes this equality is incredibly fragile and easily breakable, and if, for some reason procreation becomes a desperate necessity for society rather than an individual's emotional decision, it would be justified that woman should relinquish other roles and responsibilities for the "good of mankind."
- Word count: 1563
Furthermore he claims in his first chapter, "Before I left Belfast, I had been torn with a desperate kind of love and distaste for my place." Both statements from the two parts of Keenan's book, show that his life, as he puts it himself, was a type of 'cul-de-sac.' This metaphor for a dead-end shows that Keenan was no more free in his native Ireland, so much that he was forced to seek mental comfort elsewhere. The entire opening chapter of an evil cradling highlights Keenan's disconnection with his country and how he felt trapped and a sense of claustrophobia in a place so familiar to him.
- Word count: 1488
The people, such as the commander's wives, despise the handmaid's as they feel they are burdens yet they still put up with them because they need them in order to have a child. The idea that the handmaids are granted the basic human needs yet are denied needs on a moral level is another important issue. They are fed regularly, but bland and unoriginal foods that they do not choose themselves. They are also given practically empty rooms with no way of attempting to kill themselves which is a strange concept but still immensely controlling all the same.
- Word count: 840
'Milk and Honey' refers to the promised land. 'Eyes', who are fundamentally spies placed in order to catch offenders of the regime, is a proverb also from the Old Testament. Even the protocol greeting, "Blessed be the fruit" is a biblical reference, (Luke's gospel 1:42.) In the first chapter we are introduced almost immediately to religion. The Angels that govern the Red Centre are, in theory, educating the handmaid's by the words of God. This is ironic as angels are normally associated with protection, not incarceration with is effectively what is being done to the young women who are learning to be handmaid's.
- Word count: 918
The bravery in Moira, and lack of it in Janine is evident within the book. Such an example is in Part 8 of the book "Birth Day." Offred recalls the second time that Moira attempted to escape from the Red Centre. We are aware of the amount of punishment that she had received for her first attempt: "she couldn't walk for a week," and yet she does so again. This shows just how brave she is, in that she is willing to phase punishment, in the slightest chance that she is able to escape.
- Word count: 927
This extract teaches the readers about the narrator's lifestyle from the very first paragraph. The biblical reference to "nunnery" announces metaphorically that "time here is measured by bells, as once in nunneries" and that "as in nunnery, there are few mirrors." The negative connotation of the word "nunnery" hints the cloistered and systematic lifestyle of a nun, who has only one purpose in life: to be devoted to God, avoid being involved in the materialistic world and push away human desires.
- Word count: 1112
Atwood however, refuses to simplify the gender debate or to accept the slogans. Instead, she challenges these slogans by demonstrating how they run the risk of being taken over as instruments of oppression. In the 1970s there were feminist catchphrases such as 'a women's culture' or 'The Personal is Political.' Gilead has appropriated these phrases. 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a version of the slogan 'The Personal is Political'. Offred's narrative challenges the absolute authority of Gilead's heroic 'grand narrative' of history because it is from a feminist perspective. The novel itself is firmly situated in its historical and geographical context of America in the 1980s with its liberal anxieties over both women's rights and civil rights.
- Word count: 1722
The first sentence in Chapter one is "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium." When people have to sleep in a communal place after a natural disaster they are often relocated to a gymnasium or other such place. In this case the reader wonders what natural disaster has hit Gilead and why is it necessary to sleep in a gymnasium. We later on learn that a natural disaster has not struck and this is in fact the work of human beings. This effectively conveys the dystopian world. The people in the gymnasium have had their choice removed.
- Word count: 1742
How Far is The Handmaids Tale a Dystopian Text, Specifically at the Regime of Gilead and its Successes and Flaws?
Despite being obviously morally wrong (for instance, Handmaids are practically raped weekly in order to bear a child for their 'commander', and that only heterosexual white people are allowed in the regime) many of the people in Gilead do not rebel. This is because they are scared of what might happen if they do. There are 'eyes' dotted all over the country who will have them executed if they rebel. Offred is even scared of reading the 'FAITH.' cushion in her bedroom, as 'It's the only thing they've given me to read.'
- Word count: 2174
The air of desirability Atwood gives these things reflects how Offred desires them. However, this does not mean that Offred needs these things to regain her sense of self; Atwood simply uses them as symbols of Offred's true identity which she attributes to herself and her life before the regime. In contrast, Atwood uses negative language to describe the red dress Offred now wears. The phrases, "a nondescript woman in red"7 and, "the colour of blood, which defines us"8 hint at Offred's contempt towards her red dress. This shows how Offred recognises that her obligatory red dress is not a reflection of her personality (as clothing should be)
- Word count: 2104
'There is more than one type of freedom, freedom to and freedom from...' How does Atwood's presentation of oppression influence your understanding of the novel?
Gilead is governed by a group of male elite known as the Commanders, who enforce their rule through paramilitary groups known as "Guardians of the Faith", and secret police called "Eyes". Every aspect of Offred's life is strictly monitored and controlled, and the only freedom she can create is through daydreams and memories. She is only allowed out during the day for a short period of time to shop for the family that the state has assigned her to when accompanied by another Handmaid, stating that 'she is my spy and I am hers'.
- Word count: 1537
This creates an interesting image in our heads of the different fashions that people wore once in this gymnasium. Atwood uses some interesting lexical choices such as 'lingered, palimpsest, forlorn wail and cardboard devil', which builds up a rather strong semantic field of evil and forsaken images. However Atwood puts in a rather strange antonym to generally make us think, 'cardboard devils' and 'snow of light'. Our narrative voice now makes us think even further by saying that '[w]e yearned for the future', again this makes us uncomfortable as readers because we wonder why she said we.
- Word count: 1917
Looking at the first twelve chapters of The Handmaid(TM)s Tale, how qualified do you feel Offred is to be the heroine of the tale?
However, this would only be from the viewpoint of the fully indoctrinated members of Gilead (who would concur with Joseph Campbell when he says that 'a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself'); and as such it would be wrong to say that she is a traditional hero extolling the virtue of freedom. As no concrete definition of a hero is available, we must assume that the question refers to the traditional fairy-tale hero, who strives against the odds for the principle of benefiting others, often risking loss of their own freedom, or even their lives.
- Word count: 1471
In 'The Handmaid's Tale' how does Atwood use the first chapter of the novel to establish setting, themes, character?
Gilead's rejection of democracy and social freedom is exemplified through the structure of the army cots which are "set up in rows, with spaces between" so that the women cannot talk - clearly conveying the organised oppressive society present at the time. Atwood emphasises this theme of oppression by describing the gymnasium as it had "once been" in a list like style; clearly illustrating the image of freedom which the girls in "mini-skirts", "pants", then "one earring, spiky green-streaked hair" represent, and which the narrator can now only know "from pictures".
- Word count: 1007
In chapter one the reader sees the first sign of an oppressed society when we discover that Offred and some other women are living in a gymnasium under the supervision of the Aunts, who monitor and control the women who become known as handmaids. In the first paragraph we see two words which could show some form of link to an oppressed society: 'palimpsest' is the first word which gives the impression that there is an eerie atmosphere which could also show how there is a dark under covering that something is not as it appears.
- Word count: 1441
The Handmaids Tale illustrates that dictatorship can be established by creating a state of fear once language controls are instituted. As a tradition to dystopian novels, Atwood has drawn much attention
This act taken by the Gileadian state totally objectifies the Handmaids. They no longer have a status in the society, and instead they become possessive items of the commanders. In the case of Offred, she does not mention her real name throughout the entire novel. In fact, Offred is probably numbed by the reality that she doesn't even want to mention her real name, as she once said, "I must forget about my secret name and all ways back. My name is Offred now, and here is where I live." (p.185)
- Word count: 1239
Analyse Atwood's narrative & linguistic approaches and how chapter 9 contributes to the novel as a whole
Another area where we see the narrator's distrust in words is when she clearly states "I'll never trust these words again". The use of this future tense declarative reveals the narrator's fear and suspicion of words (especially about the word love). The narrator seems to think the entire body should be called the same as she says "the language is wrong, it shouldn't have different words for them". Later we see Atwood displaying the narrator's pessimistic language when she uses the declarative "But soon they'll have the artificial womb".
- Word count: 1772
and a closing sestet (6 lines) with a fixed rhyme scheme. Conversely, Atwood avoids many of these tools and minimizes her use of literary techniques. She splits her stanzas into 3 lines each, creating a sense of balance. Atwood also omits similes, metaphors and intricate imagery - aspects of literature that are appreciated and used in other poems. The poet excludes figurative language as well. Typically, a reader searches for a plot, with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, the speaker states "I will tell the secret to you" (Line 19).
- Word count: 889
One of the main themes laced throughout Attwood?s novel is a feminist vision of anti-utopia, or dystopia. Written shortly after the election of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, The Handmaid?s Tale is temporally embedded in a period in which revival of conservative attitudes were apparent, and one increasingly influenced by an organised movement of religious conservative who criticized attitudes towards s*x in the 1960s and 1970s. Those groups deemed these general attitudes ?excessive?, and believed strongly against what they called the ?s****l revolution?.
- Word count: 450
The writer makes the reader unprepared for the description to follow, thereby creating a greater feeling of shock. Indeed, the opening of the second paragraph makes the reader feel embarrassment and shame towards the narrator."Fully clothed except for the healthy white cotton under drawers". She is lying on a bed, fully clothed except for her privates uncovered. As the description continues, the author uses the subjunctive "if I were to open my eyes" which expresses a wish, a possibility, a state of unreality. This allows the narrator to imagine the "white" carpet representing purity, which reassures the reader that is shocked by the previous sentence.
- Word count: 837
This bears a close semblance to Offred?s narrative in Chapter 23, ?I hold the glossy counters with their smooth edges, finger the letters. The feeling is voluptuous. This is freedom, an eyeblink of it?. This shows that Atwood?s choice of scrabble was not for the want of an arbitrary game, it fits into a recurring theme of the power of language in Atwood?s work. The game of scrabble, though forbidden in Gilead, is available to high-ranking officers. Language has been seized by the authoritarian government, with religious terminology used as labels in the dystopian state.
- Word count: 963
In "The Handsmaids Tale" explore how Atwood creates a sense of isolation and threat in the opening chapters
are two women gaolers, they guard the red centre with their ?cattle prodders?, which is an unnecessary use or force that they have, which for those that are under their supervision (the Handmaids) it would create an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty for the Handmaids because the Aunts have the ?cattle prodders? they could use them against the Handmaids to create fear within them, which for the Aunts would create a group of impressionable woman to feel threatened. I feel that there must have been some previous events that have occurred in the Red Centre for the Aunts to feel the need for ?cattle prodders?, they would use the equipment to enforce the strict discipline that surrounds Gilead.
- Word count: 1074
?Distribution of power over the male and female partners mirrors the distribution of power over males and females in society?. Women?s relationship with men especially those of the Handmaid women is that of servitude with women being seen as possession of men. Offred is named so because she is seen as the property of the commander who is named Fred as is such with the other handmaids that are mentioned in the novel such as Ofglen and Ofwarren. Even the Commander?s wife who is meant to have more power than the handmaidens is only known by her previous name Serena Joy due to Offred having previously read about her.
- Word count: 1406
The aunts are the ones controlling her at this point by physically hurting her so she could no longer have the ability to escape because ?her feet would not fit into her shoes, they were too big? and this shows Moira being controlled and dragged around very roughly. Atwood has done this to inform that reader that if a woman gives in to resistance or tries to give themselves a little control, there will be consequences but, not bad enough that they can?t play their role as it doesn?t require them using their feet and Margaret has shown Moira as an example because of her rebellious attitude.
- Word count: 1036
By close examination of the themes and narrative technique, show how Margaret Atwood conveys Offreds sense of alienation towards Gilead, in the first six chapters of The Handmaids Tale
Gilead?s dystopian world originates from its theocracy and the way in which religion pervades every aspect of life. Biblical terminology, from the vehicles, shops, and roles in society, e.g: ?angels, commanders of the faithful?; gives the state control over the strict sentiments and ideas that the inhabitants can express, stripping everybody of an individual identity. As a reader, we are as confused, outcast, and distant from the action, as the protagonist Offred is, because we are presented with an immediate unfamiliarity.
- Word count: 1616