The Handmaid's Tale

Language as a Form of Power In The Handmaid's Tale

Since the beginning of history, language has been the most important means of communication and development amongst humans. Because of language's enormous significance, manipulating it to control a large group of people is extremely effective. In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood creates Gilead, an imaginary futuristic regime involving the complete stripping of freedom from women. Even though the new government employs armies of spies and guards to enforce its laws, the real power lies in the government's control of language. Atwood subtly incorporates the theme of language into every aspect of the story, demonstrating not only the influence it has over groups of people but also how its absence affects the main character's sanity.

The novel begins with Offred, the main character and narrator, sitting in her stark, empty room at the Commander's house. Once a successful working mother, Offred is now merely a tool for reproduction. Like all other unmarried or lesbian women in the country, Offred must exchange her real name for the generic possessive title indicating which commander she services ('Offred' meaning 'Of Fred'). With the loss of their real names, the women automatically begin to...

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