The Handmaid's Tale

Complete a chart comparing and contrasting the style in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -300 words

Discuss the difference between stylistic techniques in two novels.

Compare and contrast the stylistic features of two novels.

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Sorry, we aren't able to do charts, and this is a short answer forum. I have found the following information for you and posted sources below.

The Handmaid's Tale Writing Style

Blunt and Opaque

The narrator speaks plainly and bluntly throughout the book. But despite her fascination with the texture of words, much of the time her words seem to cloak or obscure what really happened. The contrast between what's being revealed and what's being hidden is formally emphasized by the slippage between what characters say and what they think.

From a technical standpoint, we can see this in the absence of quotation marks to separate speech from thoughts and feelings, particularly in memories. For example, consider this excerpt, in which the narrator flashes back to a disagreement she had with Luke when she tried to explain to him how being stripped of her agency in society has made her feel:

You don't know what it's like, I said. I feel as if somebody cut off my feet. I wasn't crying. Also, I couldn't put my arms around him. (28.86)

This conversation takes place in the narrator's mind, so we have to take her word for it that this is how it went down. Here the book moves rapidly between what the narrator says to Luke, first "You don't know what it's like," then "I feel as if somebody cut off my feet." The second statement could be an internal thought, since it overlaps with "I wasn't crying." The narrator then immediately shifts to what her body can't do: "put [her] arms around him." She can't put into words "what it's like" for her, and she can't act on her feelings. Her body is defined by what it can't do: cry or hug her husband. So there are facets of this argument that we can't see. Its lines are blurry, and the narrator reinforces that blurriness, but neither does she shy away from the tough moments in her text. (1)

Author's Note;

"In form, the book is a dystopia (negative utopia). A cognate of A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is the story of one woman's altered circumstances, presented as a first-person narrative novel."

What I've written is only the view of one woman who lives in that society. I reveal Gilead through the eyes of that one woman. It would be cheating to show the reader more than the character has access to. Her information is limited. In fact, her lack of information is part of the nightmare. (2)

Pride and Prejudice Writing Style

Surprising Turns of Phrase, Sarcastic, Subtle, Pointed

Austen is the total master of the slow, subtle burn. It's like poetry in motion – you just watch as sentence after sentence starts out nice and predictable and then – BAM! – right in the kisser. Let's watch and learn how a pro does it in this paragraph that introduces Sir William Lucas, Charlotte's dad:

Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James's had made him courteous. (5.1)

First we go swimmingly along, as Sir William is shown to be a well-off guy who even gets to make a speech in front of the king. Then, though, check out the long third sentence, as the narrator masterfully goes from Sir William's point of view (he now finds actually working for a living "disgusting" and moves to a house in the country) to an outside perspective on Sir William's growing egotism (all he does now is "think with pleasure of his own importance"), and then, finally, rounds it off with an amazing judgment on the way climbing the social ladder creates a useless man out of an industrious one (Sir William is free from the "shackles" of his work and now just spends his time being "civil").

Funny – but we're not done yet. The problem isn't really just that Sir William himself has become totally purposeless ever since getting his knighthood and becoming too high class for his business. The narrator next expands the issue further, pointing to the culture at large, which is more than happy to go along with Sir William and his new attitude. Check out how, because he's all fancy and titled, in the eyes of his neighbors he gets a fancier adjective to describe his behavior (instead of simply "friendly" he's become "courteous," which also carries the pun of "court" (as in royal court) inside it – the place where Sir William has picked up his new status). (3)


(1) (2) (3)