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Atwood describes a number of things she “could” do in the fourth paragraph of the extract. This creates a “what will happen? “, and therefore suspense, as Atwood reels off a list of possibilities, without actually carrying out any of them – “Each one of them (the possibilities) seems the same size as all the others. Not one seems preferable”. Offred seems resigned to her fate, especially when she says “I consider these things idly” and “(I feel) … pervaded with indifference”.
In fact, this last sentence destroys some of the suspense and atmosphere of the passage by depicting Offred as prepared to tolerate her death or imprisonment, she is placid, apathetic, and simply waiting for “it”, whatever “it” may be, to happen. This is similar to the eponymous character in Hamlet, who mentions all the possibilities, knows of their existence and the pros and cons of each, but chooses not to act upon them. The majority of sentences in the extract are either split into small sections by commas or very short in their entirety, showing the reader the narrator (Offred’s) confused state of mind.
Her thoughts quickly flit from one train to another, demonstrating her anxious mind which she is unable to focus properly. This is further proved by the choice of paragraph structure and paragraph length, both of which are disjointed and uneven. The text features many gaps and silences which show the passing of time, the flits from one train of thought to another and the uncertainties that the author is experiencing. The language is straightforward, uncomplicated, simple but not simplified, as is typical of the novel.
The historical notes inform the reader that the novel is a transcript of a tape-recorded account, and it is easy to imagine listening to the narrator recounting the story verbally. This use of language makes it easy to imagine the narrator as a normal every day person who was catapulted into Gilead, rather than a journalistic view. Atwood successfully avoids the danger of sounding too descriptive and authoritative, not just during this passage but in the entire novel, giving the narrative a more realistic undertone and setting the book apart from most science fiction.
This choice of language adds to the suspense of the passage because the feelings described are genuine, we know they are not just there for effect or drama. This effortless clear-cut and realistic dialogue runs throughout the entire novel, accentuating and validating the feelings and events described. The extract clearly has depressing and desolate undertones, with Offred’s despair at its most prevailing at any point within the novel, as she is hopelessly resigned to her fate.
The passage, however, avoids the trap of being dull and despondent, as would be easy to fall into at such a pessimistic point in the novel. Atwood’s imagery, sentence structure and language, bring the passage to life and prevent it from being gloomy and grey, instead creating an atmosphere of suspense. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.