There are also few occasions in the telling of her story where Offred seems almost inconsolable through sheer desperation as a result of the lack of normality in her life, ‘I want her back (her mother), I want everything back, the way it was’. She is desperate to escape from this regime which has bound her to such alienation. She wants to love and be loved once again. When Offred looks inside herself in her moments of nostalgia, she does find a set of memories that allow her to recall a sense of herself.
She can remember her job, her love for her husband, her daughter, her mother, her friends; particularly Moira, her education and the successes and failures of everyday life. Throughout the book she tries to hold on to these, but eventually they begin to fade away. Luke and her daughter slip into past tense. She fears that she is finally betraying Luke when she has her affair with Nick, and she feels erased by time, no longer a presence in her daughter’s existence.
‘I sit in the chair and think about the word chair.
It can also mean the leader of a meeting. It can also mean a mode of execution. It is the first syllable in charity… ‘ On many occasions throughout the novel Offred plays with language. Language is one of the central symbolic themes of the novel and it is something that is restricted and demoted in Gilead. Barbara Hill Rigney2 described Atwood’s use of such a mechanism in the Handmaid’s Tale to represent Offred’s oppression as: ‘Language is a ‘fragile protest’, but it represents the only salvation possible’.
I believe this is absolutely true in that Offred being able to relate her story to somebody else is what keeps her sane. It gives her some form of escape where she does not have to be someone she isn’t, yet she can choose to be exactly what she wants; it’s her story, her choices. According to Amin Malik1 what makes Atwood’s book such a moving tale is ‘it’s clever technique in presenting the heroine initially as a vice like sleepwalker conceiving disjointed perceptions of its surroundings, as well as flashing reminiscences about a bygone life’.
As the scenes gather more details and momentum, Offred’s narrative transfigures into a full roundedness that parallels her maturing comprehension of what is happening around her. Atwood skilfully manipulates the time sequence between Offred’s past (pre-Gilead) and the present: those shifting reminiscences offer glimpses of a life, though not ideal, still filled with energy, creativity, humaneness and a sense of selfhood, a life that sharply contrasts with the alienation, slavery and suffering under totalitarianism.
1. Amin Malik, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale and the Dystopian Tradition, 1987 2. Barbara Hill Rigney- Atwood Critic Published by Macmillan Press 1987. Dec 2003 Miss. Slocombe Nasima Begum 12B Pg 1 of 3 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.