Margaret Atwood 's The Handmaid 's Tale Essay

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Language is a communication system. It is one of the most unavoidable, as well as underestimated, elements of everyday life and it is questionably the most powerful medium by which humans interconnect with one another. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrates how language is able to facilitate power and in turn, dominate a society. In this novel Atwood creates Gilead, an imaginary futuristic society where women are completely stripped of their freedom. Although this type of society utilizes guards and spies to reinforce the regulations, the primary power relies in the government’s control of language. In the Republic of Gilead, Atwood uses an official vocabulary that is much different than the one we use today. This language is specifically designed to serve the needs of the society’s elite and it manages to overlook and distort reality. Not only does Atwood use a warped language, but she also color codes different groups because color is just as much of a language than anything that is said out loud. With the use of this coded language, Gilead creates a system of titles. Throughout this novel, Atwood assigns each group of characters with terms such as Handmaids, Commander, Aunts, Unwomen, as well as color-coding certain groups, and by doing so, she manages to exemplify the power of language and how it shapes and controls a society. The term “Handmaiden” (or Handmaid) is roughly defined as a personal maid or female servant, particularly to women of a higher rank
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