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The Handmaid's Tale Paper

720 words - 3 pages

With close reference to The Handmaid’s Tale, discuss the ways in which Atwood used narrative strategies and with what effect.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the future in the country previously recognized as the United States of America; in the story that country is acknowledged as the Republic of Gilead, which was founded on the philosophy of male supremacy. The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel that is centered on poverty and tyranny. Margaret Atwood uses narrative strategies such as stream of consciousness and flashback to help explain the plot of the story and the characterization of the narrator—Offred. All of that contributes to help convey an important theme in the book which is the presence and manipulation of power and control over others.

Stream of consciousness is a technique in which Atwood uses to record Offred’s thoughts and emotions in a “stream” as they come to mind, without the use of order or structure; jumping from one memory to another. The main purpose of ...view middle of the document...

Throughout the story, Atwood also uses the literary technique of flashback to aid the storyline. Margaret Atwood used flashback, jumping from present and past, rather than telling the story from beginning to end to help depict the importance of the manipulation of power and the abuse of others. “Moira, sitting on the edge of my bed, legs crossed, ankle on knew, in her purple overalls, one dangly earring, the gold fingernail she wore to be eccentric, a cigarette between her stubby yellow-ended fingers. Let’s go for a beer.”-page 37 In the Republic of Gilead, Offred has to wear certain clothes since she is a handmaid. She does not have the right to wear what she wants. In this scenario, the flashback describes what her friend Moira is wearing to give a sense of comparison and contrast between the life she used to live before Gilead, and the present. Not only did she describe what Moira was wearing to do that, but Atwood also used the motif of smoking. In Gilead, Offred cannot smoke and always wishes for a cigarette. In the flashback, she describes Moira smoking a cigarette; as simple as that. She also says, “Let’s go for a beer.” In Gilead, Offred cannot leave whenever she wants for a drink. Basically, Atwood used flashback to compare a society where there is much less abuse of women to a society where women’s rights are completely stripped. This helps the reader visualize the life a woman is living in a society like that, conveying the theme of the novel to the reader. Atwood used this narrative strategy of flashback to not only aid the plot of the novel, but to also convey the theme of the manipulation of power.

Margaret Atwood uses the narrative strategies such as stream of consciousness and flashback to help convey the presence and manipulation of power and control over others. Also helping convey the important theme in the story is Offred’s characterization and the plot of the story; founded on the philosophy of male supremacy; a harsh place for women to live in, including offred—The Republic of Gilead.

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