“Compare the ways in which each author uses language and structure in their dystopian views of the future and discuss what may have influenced the authors in their writings of the text” The two texts ‘1984’ and ‘The Handmaids Tale’ are both written as dystopias. ‘1984’ written by George Orwell in 1948 is supposedly the basis of Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaids Tale’ which was written in 1985. These novels are products of two different historical contexts. ‘The Handmaids Tale’ was written during a time of great feminist movements whereas 1984 was developed in Stalin’s five-year plan and the war that interrupted it.
The novelists therefore reflect these contexts in their writing style as they look at dystopian examples of the future. The two authors structure their dystopias in different ways; one way is by the use of language. Language operates within two categories one is language as a means of a controlling force, for ‘1984’ this would be Oceania and for ‘The Handmaids Tale’, Gilead. The second area is resistance. Atwood chose religious rhetoric whilst Orwell chose Newspeak, both new languages are full of discourse. The author’s styles also create the dystopian environment.
Atwood uses elaborate language rich in imagery where as Orwell’s language is blunt direct and immediate. The structure of the novel is also comparative. ‘The Handmaids Tale’ is set into chapters and sections, however Orwell splits his novel into three parts, each with a different story development. The last area that creates a dystopian is influences that the author had. For Orwell this was a war filled environment, dictatorship and poverty and for Atwood, a feminist concern. The language of conformity is the author’s knowledge of language and how it can be used as a means of control, both novels portray similar techniques.
‘The Handmaids Tale’ uses religious rhetoric and biblical allusions where as ‘1984’ takes on Newspeak. These contain similarities, as they are both controlling phrases and words taken by the regime in order to control. However, the novels dystopian environments are very different, which means it is due to the fact that the nature of their language is written in different contexts. George Orwell’s Big Brother regime invents words such as “doubleplusgood” to reduce the ways in which citizens can express themselves. This is an extreme controlling force.
Gilead on the other hand has turned to the bible in order to create biblical allusions such as “Blessed be the fruit” and “may the Lord open”, altering the biblical phrase to fit their need. They do this so their citizens will be more willing to conform as it symbolises God’s will. Within ‘The Handmaids Tale’ there are characters that the regime employ to teach beliefs. Many of these produce proverbs or Maxims. Specific characters that depict this would be the Aunts, who produce connotations of the bible. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”
This is an opposite when viewing slogans in ‘1984’. “War is peace Freedom is slavery Ignorance is strength” Orwell’s slogans have no biblical reference and control the citizens to believe in terrible contradictory ideas, as war is obviously not peace. This is the complete opposite to proverbs of biblical allusions because Atwood’s proverbs are of peace, this is why Oceania reconstructs the dictionary, as we know it in today’s society. A similarity that the novels contain within their characters is their euphemisms of positive connotations. Atwood uses the Aunts and Orwell takes Big Brother.
Big Brother’s slogans are protecting yet controlling, such as “Big Brother is watching you”. The euphemisms in both novels are controlling as they represent protective, family figures that the citizens will be willing to conform to. Citizens are categorised into occupations, this is witnessed in both novels. In ‘The Handmaids Tale’ categories include Handmaids, Commanders and their wives, Colony workers, Guardians, Aunts, Housekeepers and Servants. In ‘1984’ citizens are in the following categories: Party workers, most of whom are employed by the Ministry of Truth, Inner Party members, Thought Police and Paroles.
All these areas equal conformity, however the main characters in these novels both resist against their regimes. Atwood portrays the language of resistance through the narrative of her main character Offred. Through out Offred’s narrative ‘image clusters’ of feminist themes of the human body and non-human nature are received by the reader. An example for non-human nature would be: ” I sink down into my body as into a swamp fenland, where only I know the footing” An example of the language used for the body is:
“Each twinge, each murmur of slight pain, ripples of sloughed-off matter, swellings and diminishing of tissue, the droolings of the flesh… ” Focus on hands, feet, blood, flowers, gardens and changing season’s shows us Offred’s resistance to the harsh regime of Gilead. The feminine imagery portrays the power of the human body in which Atwood celebrates the power of sexual desire and the power of nature, which can break Gilead’s repression. This is Ecriture feminine, the writing of the body, a feminist tool used in order to create the power of the female body.