The Handmaid's Tale Language Analysis

Decent Essays
“Language is power...the instrument of domination and liberation,” says notable author Angela Carter. Canadian novelist Margret Atwood, highlights language’s power in her 1986 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Her tale points to the trials presented to women by a future theocratic American dystopia of religious zealotry called the Republic of Gilead. Under subjugation and divided into specific groups, women like the narrator, Offred, that serve as surrogate mothers for prominent families must cope with the memory of their past freedoms. On the other hand, the Gileadean government maintains its power by controlling speech, hindering literacy, and forbidding reading. While the government dictates a women’s role in society, that individual has varied freedom when it comes to language. Thus, to help express Gileadean oppression, Atwood shows how Offred uses plays on language, Gilead’s control of the women’s language, and language as a tool for Offred to escape from Gilead. Throughout the novel, Atwood uses Offred’s drifting and inconsistent narration to investigate multiple meanings of words. For example, Offred imagines that Luke, her husband, is in the library, where she recalls paintings memorializing a battle. “The men on the side of Death are still alive. They’re going to heaven. Death is a beautiful woman, with wings and one breast almost bare; or is that…show more content…
Since the government fears what knowledge and individuality can do, language in Gileadean society is made to repress women and furthers the government’s patriarchal control over society. Offred endeavors to believe in a better future, despite the oppressive theocratic Gileadean regime; taking hope in the phrase etched into the wooden corner cupboard, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” (Atwood
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