Comparison Between 'the Handmaids Tale' And '1894' (Language As Controlling Force, Language Styles, Structure And Contexts'

3592 words - 14 pages

Both the novels '1984' and 'The Handmaids Tale' provide warnings of how each author sees certain problems in society leading to dystopian states. Dystopian genres exist in both novels, but arise for different reasons. Resulting from Atwood's concerns about political groups and aspects of feminism; 'The Handmaids Tale' illustrates how declining birth rates could lead to a state where women are forced into bearing children. In contrast, '1984' depicts a terror state where poverty is rife and tyrannical leaders force citizens to live by their rules. Although both novels share such themes as surveillance, deprivation and loss of identity, they describe two very different dystopian worlds, often by using identical literary techniques but also differing ones. In both 'The Handmaid's Tale' and '1984', language is obviously used as a form of state control, enabling dystopian leaders to remain in power by manipulating language to restrict free thought. People are consequently politically unaware and unable to rebel against them. This is done in '1984' through using 'Newspeak', a reduced version of today's Standard English, or 'Oldspeak'. As the Oceanian powers have omitted words from people's vocabulary they are unable to speak words The Party deems unsuitable or create unorthodox thoughts. This makes all modes of thought impossible, except those agreeing with The Party's principles. Winston Smith's conversation with Syme demonstrates this: "Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan "Freedom is Slavery" When the concept of freedom has been abolished." If The Party fulfilled its aims, abolishing further words such as 'freedom', citizens would become ignorant that they had ever possessed 'freedom'; would not want freedom from the regime, and would not rebel against it, giving Big Brother total control.The appendix further shows how reducing words and meanings will affect everyday language. "The word free still existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in such statements as 'This dog is free from lice'... it could not be used in its old sense... since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts" The Party eliminate words they deem undesirable by removing unorthodox meanings. The word, 'free' remains, but not in such contexts as, 'free from oppression'.'The Handmaid's Tale' also uses language to manipulate people within the dystopia; but Atwood also uses Religious Discourse to prevent unorthodox thought. This could be seen as Atwood's equivalent to Newspeak, although such strong restrictions as removing words from a language do not exist. Religious discourse occurs in the conversation between handmaids. When Offred meets Ofglen her greeting is "Blessed be the fruit" and the accepted response, "May the Lord Open". This restricts what they may say. Even if they remember past thoughts, they are unable to communicate them, due to linguistic restrictions; any rebellious thoughts remain unspoken, enabling...

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