Atwood's Attention to Words in The Handmaid's Tale Essay

Good Essays
Atwood's Attention to Words in The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaids Tale illustrates that dictatorship can be established by creating a state of fear once language controls are instituted. As a tradition to dystopian novels, Atwood has drawn much attention to the meaning of words and the significance of names, as well as the prohibition for women to read or write, in order to portray Gilead as a successful totalitarian state. Atwood is trying to make the point that in a dystopian world, language can be the power. The meaning of names is a central focus of the novel, because names define people. Their worth and functions are summarized by the names. To some extent, the names also discourage originality. This occurs especially to…show more content…
A system of titles is created to justify the social hierarchy where women are not granted the same rights as men. Men are defined by military ranks whereas women are restricted to the domestic sphere, and are valued primarily upon their functionality rather than their humanity. This suggests that men in the Gilead society are substantially more powerful than women in general. In this respect, Atwood is trying to make the point that language can be a powerful tool to create an extremely misogynistic regime. Moreover, the classification of society is used as a device to dehumanize people. For instance, feminists and deformed babies are looked upon as subhuman, as suggested by the titles “unwomen” and “unbabies”, denoting that these people have no worth in the society. The only reason that they are nevertheless given the titles is to serve as bad examples to create a state of fear amongst the other citizens. The point the Atwood is trying to make here is that language is taken from the outcast Gileadians and the outcast Gileadians are taken away from language. The Novel significantly emphasizes on the manipulation of language in general because it is an important approach to control the thoughts of people. Many words have been heavily distorted from their original meanings by the Gileadian government, in order to support their political ideology. A classic example from the novel would be “The
Get Access