The Handmaid's Tale

Narrative Techniques as Exploration of Society in The Handmaid's Tale 12th Grade

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, a range of narrative techniques are used to reveal the severity of life in Gilead, a dystopia foreshadowing the corrupt future of American society under a fundamentalist Christian regime. Published in 1986 whereby the ‘Religious Right’ had gained influence, there were fears of the reversal of women’s equality and the degeneration back to submissiveness in the future. Atwood’s narrator Offred acts as a vessel, both for bearing a child for the high-society Wives in Gilead and as a window to many of its aspects of life.

Atwood’s use of language with biblical connotations is paramount in revealing the puritanical belief upon which Gilead was founded. The reader gets an immediate sense of the distortion of religion in Gilead in Chapter One with the reference to ‘the Angels’ who ‘were objects of fear to us’. The unsettling juxtaposition of a symbol of protection with ‘fear’ suggests that religion has been distorted to make the people of Gilead believe that their devotion to God ensures their survival in the repressive state where infidels are obliterated. Atwood makes use of religious diction to reveal the need for religious conformity when distorting the biblical reference to ‘The Sermon...

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