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Comment on Atwood's use of imagery in chapters one to thirty-three of "The Handmaid's tale".

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Introduction

Comment on Atwood's use of imagery in chapters one to thirty-three of "The Handmaid's tale" Atwood's use of imagery if a very significant part of The handmaid's tale. The imagery used helps to establish depth in Offred's story and even contains hidden meanings and messages, which are not otherwise made explicit by Offred in her narrative. During chapters one to five the first of the themes, which run throughout the novel are introduced. During Offred's narrative, colour imagery appears many times and this is first shown in chapter two when Offred describes the colours of the flowers in her picture. Colour is used to describe almost anything in Offred's tale, from clothes to carpets. Red is a colour that is reoccurring, partly because of Offred's clothes but also because of its connotations with regards to blood, love, death and the menstrual cycle. Flowers are also a prominent part in Offred's imagery and they are frequently added to descriptions of things which would have otherwise seemed terrible, to lighten the mood of the story. Later on in the novel Offred even says, " I've tried to put some of the good things in as well. Flowers, for instance, because there would we be without them?" She seems to add descriptions of flowers and to go into great detail about other things which are pretty irrelevant, such as colour when she has come across a particularly painful point in her tale or when describing some event which she is ashamed of. ...read more.

Middle

Offred also conjures up a lot of imagery by associating words with other words. She will start by thinking of a word and then relate it to other words in her mind. This enables the reader to see more deeply into her thoughts and it allows images to form in the reader's mind, which would have been in Offred's at the time. During chapter nine a lot of imagery is used when Offred describes "her" room. It seems like this has been done to demonstrate the boredom faced by the handmaids and the mundanely of their lives and to fill in time before Offred continues her story. The song lyrics Offred uses at the beginning of chapter ten evokes images of escape and loneliness. In chapter twelve Offred describes her daughter as a ghost, which suggests that Offred has given up hope of ever finding her alive. In chapter thirteen Offred describes herself using images such as "I'm a cloud" and "the shape of a pear" this allows the reader to imagine how Offred feels about herself and is an effective use of imagery because of all the pictures the words used evoke in the reader's mind. Another very descriptive part of chapter thirteen is when Offred tells of her attempt at escape. ...read more.

Conclusion

of the past but also combines it with images of the present such as "the eyes" when saying "a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes". Offred also uses very eloquent and descriptive language such as "searchlight moonlight" when she thinks of the past, which demonstrates her frustration at having language taken away from her and her small amount of power at being able to use it at night. This passage is one of my favourites because of the depth that Atwood has gone into when describing Offred's thoughts, smells and images from her past. The opening passage of chapter thirty-three is, however my favourite in terms of its imagery. There are so many similes and metaphors used in this one passage that the images evoked are almost hard to comprehend. Offred compares the handmaids to "Dutch milkmaids on a wallpaper friez and a shelf full of period-costume ceramic salt and pepper shakers". She compares them to Dutch milkmaids to show that they too are stuck in time and costume, and compares them to salt and pepper shakers to show that they are objectified and only recognised when they are to be used (in the ceremony). In conclusion we can see that the imagery used in the handmaid's tale is a very poignant part of the novel and without it the reader would not be able to empathise as well with Offred. ...read more.

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