Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

IOP The Handmaid's Tale IOP Advice

Recommended Posts

The book that I was assigned for my IOP was The Handmaid's Tale. I've decided to use the topic "how language is used as a means of control" for this. Is there anything in particular I should include in my presentation (quotes, ideas, etc)? I'm not allowed to go too far in depth about how it relates to anything Biblical since two of my classmates are doing IOPs on certain topics on how it relates to the Bible. I'm pretty confident on the actual presentation part of it, I just want to make sure that I enough relevant content and analysis in my IOP.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of Atwood's most intricate and well-integrated themes is that of the power of language. The idea of storytelling is woven throughout Offred's tale. She explains that everything is a re-interpretation of something else; nothing is an exact description of the truth. She considers possible themes for her story, pointing out that she has attempted to improve the tone of her story by adding in things like "flowers". She apologizes for the presence of so much violence and pain. As the historical notes point out, Offred's narrative is quite dissimilar from a straightforward historical account. She talks about different things, asks different questions, and provides different answers.

Another interesting use of language is found in the manner in which Offred thinks of words and analyzes them, using them to distract her from her reality and to help her survive. For example, at one point she thinks of the word chair and its many meanings, from a method of execution to the French word for flesh. When she and the Commander play Scrabble, she uses the search for words to distract herself from her fear and confusion.

Of course, one of the major changes to language enacted by the regime is that the use of language has become illicit for women. On the one hand, this lends words and language even more power. On the other hand, it renders the illicit use of language almost sexual. Offred may think so fiercely of words and take such solace in the repetition of memories because doing so helps her to retain her knowledge of language. When the Commander allows Offred to read or plays Scrabble with her, she realizes they are practicing a kind of "kinky" sexual act.

Language as a Tool of Power

Gilead creates an official vocabulary that ignores and warps reality in order to serve the needs of the new society’s elite. Having made it illegal for women to hold jobs, Gilead creates a system of titles. Whereas men are defined by their military rank, women are defined solely by their gender roles as Wives, Handmaids, or Marthas. Stripping them of permanent individual names strips them of their individuality, or tries to. Feminists and deformed babies are treated as subhuman, denoted by the terms “Unwomen” and “Unbabies.” Blacks and Jews are defined by biblical terms (“Children of Ham” and “Sons of Jacob,” respectively) that set them apart from the rest of society, making their persecution easier. There are prescribed greetings for personal encounters, and to fail to offer the correct greetings is to fall under suspicion of disloyalty. Specially created terms define the rituals of Gilead, such as “Prayvaganzas,” “Salvagings,” and “Particicutions.” Dystopian novels about the dangers of totalitarian society frequently explore the connection between a state’s repression of its subjects and its perversion of language (“Newspeak” in George Orwell’s 1984 is the most famous example), and The Handmaid’s Tale carries on this tradition. Gilead maintains its control over women’s bodies by maintaining control over names.

http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/web-papers-3/technology-of-language-in-the-handmaid%E2%80%99s-tale/

Go through this bits of information. It might be really useful to you in preparing yourself.

Btw, I loved the book. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.