Theme Of Power In The Handmaids Tale

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Though the English language has its roots in a male-dominated society where the true meaning of words are now taken for granted. In The Handmaid’s Tale, language facilitates power. In order to effectively rule over class and gender the level of censorship on literature and control of discourses runs high. Atwood uses word choice to expose the shocking structures of the Gilead society and how faulty its foundations are as it was built upon gender inequality. The repercussions of gendered language are evident throughout the novel, implying that the sexist structure of Gilead is a result of oppressive language modern Americans accept and use in every day talk.
One of the most important themes in this novel is power. The society of Gilead restructures the meaning of words to establish power. Gilead’s new vocabulary reinforces a totalitarian regime by using language to regulate the words and ideas that people can express, similar to linguistic determinism. In Eleanor Rosch’s (1974) article of Linguistic relativity, she identified both a strong and weak version of the linguistic relativity hypotheses, a degree in which language is presumed to influence our thought and behavior. The weak hypothesis is linguistic relativity, where linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions. (Rosch, 1974). However, the Gilead’s use of language reflects that more of the strong hypothesis.
Atwood also uses language to highlight the oppression of women while exploring the
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