Presentation on theme: "IN THE HANDMAIDS TALE. The language used in the handmaid’s tale is an official vocabulary created by Gilead that ignores reality. Having made it illegal."— Presentation transcript:
The language used in the handmaid’s tale is an official vocabulary created by Gilead that ignores reality. Having made it illegal for women to hold jobs, Gilead creates a system of titles. Where men are defined by their military rank, and women are defined solely by their gender roles as Wives, Handmaids, or Martha’s. Feminists and deformed babies are treated as subhuman, classed by the terms “Unwomen” and “Unbabies.” And Blacks and Jews are defined by biblical terms (such as “Children of Ham” and “Sons of Jacob,”) that set them apart from the rest of society. This strips them of permanent individual names, and strips them of their individuality. Gilead seeks to deprive women of their individuality in order to make them docile carriers of the next generation. In the handmaids tale there has been many uses of neologisms to give the impression of a different kind of world through words. One of these words would be the use of the “Of” names, the name that is given to the handmaids when they are given their commander. An example of this would be “Offred” and “Ofglen”. Specially created terms define the rituals of Gilead, such as “Prayvaganzas,” “Salvagings,” and “Particicutions.”
Women in Gilead are not the equally treated women of today, their existence is based on rank and their ability to reproduce. They are categorized in this order: Wives, Daughters, Handmaids, Aunts, Martha's, and lastly Econowives. This categorisation is a huge element of the Gilead’s use of the power of language, as they are stripping away any sort of personality or character these women once had, they are basic, un exciting, and are under constant control. By having this categorization it is encouraged for those of a higher class amongst the women to judge those below them, especially the handmaids who are perceived as sluttish. Also in this categorization you can only move down in how society perceives you, because by breaking the laws of Gilead and this categorisation system you must be punished, but still fit into the grand scheme of things. When punished these women are demoted to ‘unwomen.’ This is a powerful use of language as its saying to a women “your not a women, your an it”. However if you break the laws and refuse to fit into the handmaid role and are attractive, these women are then classed as Jezebels. Jezebels are the closest thing to freedom any of these women have although tightly controlled by the Aunts. Jezebels are women who are prostitutes and entertainers, available only to the Commanders and their guests; some are lesbians and attractive, educated women unable to adjust to handmaid status. They have what in this world would be considered freedom as they are able to wear makeup, drink alcohol, and socialize with men. Due to this categorisation the women are taught to hate and fear other women and thus remain divided in their oppression, showing how language as a tool of power can lead to the creation of distrust amongst a group of people who are being controlled but yet are too busy fearing their fellow people to care, keeping them distracted.
The Republic of Gilead control the people through means of fear, having manipulated the citizens to live in fear of what may happen to them, if they commit any crimes. “The Wall” works to instil fear in those who view it as physical proof of the consequences of ‘resisting the system’ and challenging the norms in the Republic of Gilead. “We’re supposed to look; that is what they are there for.” They hold “Salvagings,” where all the women in the district must attend, to watch other women be hanged as punishment for the crimes they have committed. The Handmaids must place their hands on a long rope as the women hang, in order to show their consent to the salvaging. “Particicution,” a term made-up by combining the words “participation” and “execution.” The particicution is an execution carried out by a group. It shows the cleverness of Gilead’s totalitarianism, since it provides a gruesome death for traitors. Its main function, though, is to provide an outlet for the rage and hatred that the Handmaids have. In chapter 43, even before Aunt Lydia announces the guilty Guardian’s crime, a “murmur of readiness and anger” builds among the Handmaids.
These are an important representation of ‘language as a tool of power’ as it shows how Offred survives in this restricted world. The ability to remember what was before in a world where the focus is on the now, gives Offred the sanity to keep going because what came before this nightmare was a once beautiful place, a place of comfort and freedom. This illustrates the importance of being able to recall the past as generally in our human nature we look back on the past with fondness to escape from the restrictions of the world we currently occupy. This is very much why Offred flashbacks because it's her way of escape from the desolate reality of the modern world she occupy's. These flashback's also represent one of the few freedoms Offred has, she may be told how to speak but the regime can't stop Offred from remembering they can't see inside her head showing how she uses her flashback's as not only a distraction from reality but also as a rebellious act against the regime she's oppressed by.