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Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

1567 words - 6 pages

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

Chapter nine opening section two of the novel is mainly recalling the
last chapters and about the narrator rediscovering herself, surfacing
the truth. In section one we see the narrator talking in the present
tense in a very descriptive form, outlining the novel. However in
section two we see her talking in the past tense demonstrating the
stories she is telling. The separation between the human and the
natural world and the narrator’s struggle with language most directly
portrays the novel's dualities.

In chapter nine there are many areas’s in which specific linguistics
are used to tell the story. This is evident in the very opening
paragraph of chapter nine, when the narrator says “The trouble is all
in the knob at the top of our bodies”. The noun euphemism ‘knob’ for
the head has connotations of a mechanical device which links in to the
“illusion that they are separate”. This creates a binary opposition
between emotion versus reason (heart versus brain), creating the idea
that the narrator is dislocated form herself. The narrator is
sceptical about language as she blames words and makes it the culprit
just like when the ‘husband’ kept saying he loved her on page 28.
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”. The use
of this future tense declarative suggests that Atwood is conveying a
dystopian future which determines sex becoming an unemotional act.

Throughout the novel we see the narrator using animal imagery to
describe Joe’s features. In chapter five the narrator describes Joes
in the simile “it’s like teddy-bear fur”. This suggests he is the
primitive man yet he is soft – ambivalent man, reinforcing his
animalistic features. This links in with chapter one, where the
narrator describes Joe as having “peasant hands”, suggesting a
roughness about him. Later the narrator says “From the side he’s like
the buffalo on the U.S nickel”. This simile suggests his manly
hairiness, the traditional masculinity, reiterating his wild
animalistic qualities. All the use of animalistic features for Joe
depicts him as some what of a hairy man “buffalo”. This links to
chapter eight where the narrator says “his hands at any rate are
intelligent, they move over me delicately like a blind man reading
Braille, skilled moulding me like a vase”. The use of the simile
“like a blind man reading Braille” suggests he uses touch as a
substitute for sight and “moulding me like a vase” reminds...

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