Margaret Atwood Use Of Language And Narrative Technique In The Handmaids Tale

1588 words - 6 pages

From the outset of 'The Handmaids Tale' the reader is placed in an unknown world, where the rights and freedom of women have been taken away. We follow the narrative journey of a handmaid, named Offred.

Throughout the first 15 Chapters we are provided with information, as narrated by Offred, with glimpses of her past life and her journey to the life she is now facing. These glimpses are not logical in their sequencing or chronological in the narration, therefore creating a feeling of disorientation among readers, a feeling matching that experienced by those living in this society. This also provokes many questions in the reader’s mind along with creating tension and expectation as to the nature of the procreation which we have come to understand is the function of the handmaids. Although the reader is made aware of the structure and methods of control within Gilead, none of the information provided can begin to prepare the reader for the way in which 'The Ceremony' is undertaken.

We are first provided with hints as to what is required of the handmaids at the beginning of the dystopia, with the mention of the Red Centre. A place where shockingly a process of conditioning is undertaken with armed guards around the fences and the women in charge carrying electric pods, suggesting it is a controlled place, but also raises the question as to why such methods of control are required. The shocking fact that the women have to lip read, again reveals to the reader how strict and controlled this society is along with providing the feeling of fear the handmaids must be experiencing.

There is also a monthly visit to the gynecologist, but on the occasion described, this routine check is made rather sinister with the doctor offering to impregnate her secretly and personally. Here the reader realises Offred is terrified by the prospect of either refusing or accepting this proposal, again revealing the power of society. This is the first hint suggesting the state justifies the procedure of procreation with a biblical reference, Genesis 30:1, “Give me children, or else I die".

Then we also have the religious service prior to the Ceremony, with the biblical reference to Genesis 30:1-3 whereby Rachel is unable to have children and therefore commands Jacob to impregnate her maid who will then give them the child. The role of the Handmaid within this society is to bear a child for barren wives but there is no suggestion, in The Bible, of Rachel being present at the time of the conception between Jacob and her maid unlike the grotesque threesome prescribed by the founders of Gilead, known as the Ceremony.

The Ceremony - the use of a proper noun used for this act connotes a sense of importance and status, with the meaning of the noun ‘Ceremony’ giving the reader the impression of it being a positive, meaningful and joyous occasion. This in turn along with the information previously provided to the reader within the first 15 chapters greatly ensures...

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