Language and Style Prose Analysis on an extract from "The Handmaid's Tale".

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Rachel Hardy

Language and Style – Prose Analysis

Macro Interpretation  

The extract suggests that the main protagonist is situated in a powerless position. For example the pronouns used ‘I’ sit straight in the chair’, ‘I’ feel like my feet in my flat red shoes aren’t quite touching the floor’ imply the obedience of a child. The language used shows the position of subordination combined with minimal direct speech thus indicating lack of power. On the other hand the internal thought expressed offers great insight into the main protagonist’s thoughts and imparts this on the audience. Towards the end  of the extract it could be argued that freedom is regained to some extent through the power of language.


The adjective ‘red’ on line 1 foregrounds the situation of dominance and subordination. In addition to this it contains negative connotations of danger and this is imparted onto the audience.

 Negative and positive adjectives on line 5‘cotton candy’ ‘small, ‘sickly’ ‘damp’ ‘weeping’ and  common nouns ‘sugar and air’ indicate high emotion and have childlike references which  identify with the subordinate role of the protagonist.

The extract is inclusive to many abstract nouns which contain negative connotations. For example on line 3 ‘strange’ is used to highlight the abnormality of the situation imparting feelings of disconcertion upon the audience. Similarly, on lines 25 the abstract nouns achieve the same effect. ‘Forbidden’ and ‘Dangerous’ are indicate that the main protagonist feels threatened thus creating tension and the speaker imparts feelings of uncertainty onto the reader. On lines 26 ‘indecent’ and ‘desirable’ suggests illicitness and is suggestive as it represents the unnamed protagonist as lecherous and immoral. The abstract nouns combined also have a secondary purpose. They are particularly effective at indicating the distance within the relationship.  

Line 27 is subject to hyperbole ‘it’s as if he has offered me drugs suggesting irrationality used to impart feelings of disbelief.  Lines 28 indicate suppression ‘I can hardly speak’ which imparts a lack of power within the nature of the dominant/subversive relationship.  Line 35 includes a dynamic verb ‘I nod’ which contributes by highlighting suppression. This identifies with the situation of the main protagonist.  In normal every day encounters it would be appropriate to use direct speech.

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 Towards the end of the extract further abstract nouns on lines 37  ‘Voluptuous’ and freedom  carry positive connotations as they imply that the protagonist has gained significant power through language.


The unnamed protagonist breaks the schematic assumption when he reveals his intentions ‘I want you to play a game of scrabble with me’. Up until this point the main narrator implied that his intentions would be more sinister ‘what does he want’. The fact that the unnamed narrator fails to reveal his intentions reiterates his authority and control.  This is imparted onto the audience creating anticipation. When his intentions ...

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