The Handmaids Tale Analysis Paper
The science fictions novel of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale portrays how the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian state, oppressively rules its people because of the dangerously low birth rate. In the perspective of a Handmaid named Offred, Offred’s role in society, bearing children for elite couples, is disagreeable and insignificant to her and only abides with the government to save her neck. The author’s style of writing conveys vivid images to the mind of the readers and thus, aids in the understanding of the whole situation as the story progresses.
In the extract from page two of chapter two, a manifold of literary elements is used to effectively introduce the main themes and issues of the novel. The use of metaphors and similes, many adjectives and punctuations, references to the Bible, and how the passage is structured as a whole are all key factors to consider in order to comprehend even the vague, but equally significant, connotative definitions of the words the author has specifically chosen to use in this extract. This extract teaches the readers about the narrator’s lifestyle from the very first paragraph.
The biblical reference to “nunnery” announces metaphorically that “time here is measured by bells, as once in nunneries” and that “as in nunnery, there are few mirrors. ” The negative connotation of the word “nunnery” hints the cloistered and systematic lifestyle of a nun, who has only one purpose in life: to be devoted to God, avoid being involved in the materialistic world and push away human desires. Therefore, this biblical reference to “nunnery”suggests to the readers that the narrator also lives a careful, abstaining, and restricted life with only one purpose in life.
The physical appearance is unimportant and thus, “as in a nunnery too, there are few mirrors. ” In this extract, the name of the narrator nor the narrator’s one purpose in life in the society is not mentioned. However, later on in the story, it becomes more evident that her role in the society is to give birth as service to her Commander and his wife. As in the first paragraph, the rest of the extract consists of long sentences divided into shorter ones by punctuation marks. Commas are the most common forms of punctuation throughout the whole novel.
The punctuation marks create a hesitant atmosphere to the extract which correlates with the narrator’s unsecure state of mind. The language itself is simple and descriptive. For example, the “color of blood”, “red”, is a common adjective used throughout the passage: “red shoes, “red gloves”, “red cloak”, etc. “Red” describes the pieces of apparel the narrator is wrapped in. The narrator being fully wrapped from head to toe in red leads the readers to hypothesize that this is the narrator’s state of being every day: tied up by the laws of the Republic of Gilead which has full authorities to control her life.
The strong color of red may be tied with the emotions of anger and rebellion the narrator is experiencing. It is hinted that she doesn’t enjoy being in this emotional state as she says that ” I never looked good in red, it’s not my color”. “The color blood which defines us” may also define the color of love, true love the narrator may have experienced in the past, and birth/reproduction, the narrator’s only role in society.
Also, the references to this color may have the role of revealing the physical and mental states of the narrator which represent the physical and mental states of the rest of the population oppressed by the the Republic of Gilead. The metaphors concerning the nunnery, the similes, ” like a path, like a carpet for royalty, it show me the way”, “like the eye of a fish, and myself in it like a distorted shadow”, and ” towards a moment of carelessness that is the same as danger” all help convey vivid images to the readers’ minds by referring to specific colors.
The white wings which symbolize the apparel covering the face of the narrator and the lack of mirrors in the house hinder the act of looking at her physical appearance and looking forward. This fact proves that the physical appearance of a person should no longer be valued among the handmaids and thus, creates a forbidding mood to the passage.
Despite the dull and melancholy descriptions made by the narrator, the place in which the narrator walks around is described as a model house: “polished hallway, like a path through the forest, like a carpet for royalty”, “late Victorian”, “the ancient grandfather clock in the hallway”, and a “motherly front sitting room in which I never sit, but stand or kneel only. ” These sentences accentuate the wealth of the family of the house as well as the pitiful state of the handmaid and her low social status.
This contrast emphasizes the gap in the social status that exists between the family of the house, and the narrator. Even when the narrator does manage to look into “a mirror on the hall wall”, the sight is only more depressing: “like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in red cloak”. The “distorted shadow” adds a grey color to the minds of the readers and thus helps in increasing the gloomy mood. The reference to “some fairy tale figure in a red cloak” suggests how unreal the narrator is feeling at the moment.
This may be due to her reluctance to accept the reality and her longing to return to her past life. The last sentence, “a sister, dipped in blood” is another biblical reference and also a metaphor which explains how she is red from head to toe as if “dipped in blood”. There is a sense of exaggeration in this description which is linked to imagery which purposefully aids in the understanding of the readers. The extract begins with alternating descriptions of the narrator’s surroundings and the narrator herself, and ends with an intensified mood in the last sentence: “a sister dipped in blood”.
The main theme introduced in this extract is Gilead’s role in society. This totalitarian government is superior towards its people in an excessively oppressive way, and the readers can understand the influences Gilead has on the narrator in the society, physically and mentally. Without directly pinning down the main issue, the author has successfully managed to describe Gilead’s role and influence in the society in the eye of a handmaid who strongly describes everything in a vigilant and disagreeable manner.