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Role Of Offred's Room In A Handmaid's Tale

1488 words - 6 pages

In the novel A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood uses different descriptions of Offred’s room to illustrate the government’s control over her and her role in the society. She uses the room to allude to her situation almost because she is unable to explicitly state her discontent with her current conditions.
Firstly, the author uses many similes, symbols and short sentence structures to emphasise the oppression and the totality of the control that the government has over Offred. She uses different objects in the room to symbolise Offred’s situation.
While exploring her room, the narrator notices that “on the white ceiling… [there is] a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a ...view middle of the document...

Another simile that the narrator uses is the comparison of her environment to a nunnery. As she describes the house, she remarks that “time here is measured by bells, as once in nunneries. As in a nunnery too, there are few mirrors.” (10) Offred lives similarly to a nun in the sense that she is restricted physically and mentally: there are few things that she is allowed to do, she is deprived of the most basic freedom. However, it is ironic that she should compare her setting to a nunnery because her job, namely to undergo the ceremony, would be regarded as a profanity and sacrilege. The narrator also notices that “there isn’t much music in [the] house” (74) Music is a form of expression; it is a means by which one can express their feelings and emotions. A lack of music is thus a lack of expression. The narrator emphasises this by using a short simple declarative sentence: “there isn’t much music in the house”. This plain sentence itself, as opposed to being elaborative, stresses the oppression resulting from the lack of freedom to communicate.
The author expresses Offred’s lack of personal identity through the use of repetitions. When observing her room, the narrator asks if “each of [the handmaids] has the same print, the same chair [and] the same white curtains.” (12) This line points out the possibility that everything that handmaids use is standardized. The repetition of the word “same” highlights this. It also emphasises that Offred’s individuality is taken away. The government strengthens its control over the handmaids and other subservient roles by denying everyone of their uniqueness.

The descriptions of the room also show Offred’s lack of control and self-defence.
Offred notices that “the door of the room…is not locked. In fact it doesn’t shut properly” (11), later she also observes that in the bathroom “of course there are no longer any locks.” (94) The Aunts may say that a place with locks makes it a prison, therefore everyone should be glad that there are no longer any locks, it means that they are not bound. However, a lock can also be seen as a defence against the world. One can lock him or herself inside a room in order to avoid danger. By taking locks away, the government thus takes away Offred and other handmaids’ ability to hide and defend themselves. A lock can also provide privacy. Without these locks, the government can watch over Offred’s every move and make sure that she is under control.
The narrator’s lack of control is also shown through the way which she regards her room. She finally decides to claim the room as her own, saying “My room, then. There has to be some space, finally, that I claim as mine, even in this time.” (66) This line conveys a tone of desperation; the narrator feels helpless because nothing is under her control. It is ironic that even though she finally acknowledges the room as her own, she still has no authority over it. The line represents the fact that she has no power over even her...

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