The Handmaiden’s Tale and 1984 Essay
The Handmaiden’s Tale and 1984
The government has the righteous duties to be a national defense for its citizens, to act as an administration of justice in providing law and order for its peoples, and to provide certain public goods and services to its people; though in these present epochs, the government fails to provide certain necessities to its citizens. The two books written in a similar century, both George Orwell’s 1984, and Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, display how the government can use violence as a means of control on its people.
In 1984, the government controls its citizens’ lives through manipulating the language of Oceania; Syme, who is Winston’s colleague at the Ministry of Truth, was a lexicographer who developed the new dictionary of the Oceanic language: Newspeak. Also, similar in type, in Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the government in Gilead uses policies that regulates and controls its women’s desires for sexual activity; the government acts in such a way, because the government has a procreative agenda in Gilead.
To conclude, the government in both these novels uses violence as a means of controlling its citizens. In 1984, and The Handmaid’s Tale, both the citizens of Oceania and Gilead have their language distorted; this is in order for them to be infringed from certain goods and services. This language alteration is most evident when Syme informs Winston (the main protagonist in 1984) that by 2050, no individual will be able to understand their conversation; this meaning that the government of Oceania wants to control its citizens’ thoughts.
This context can be understood when Syme is in a low-ceilinged canteen deep underground, and he refers to the beauty of the government’s means of controlling the local vocabulary, saying “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? … Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? …The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now.
Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness” (Orwell, pg. 68). This quote elucidates to the Big Brother’s master plan in narrowing the range of thought to the Newspeak; it states that all human beings will not understand the conversation they are having, because the universal lexicon will devalue the purpose of thought. The fact that Syme uses words and phrases such as “thought will be different,” “there will be no thought,” and, “Orthodoxy means not thinking,” implies that the government of Oceania will infringe on the citizen’s right to the freedom of thought.
Not only does the government of Oceania control the public through changing the vocabulary, but this happens also in the government of Gilead. This language manipulation is most evident when Offred was walking to the shop, and she noticed the written letters on the shop had been painted out, describing, “Almost all written words anywhere have been removed, even the shops have had “… the lettering… painted out, when they decided that even the names of the shops were too much… for us. Now places are known by their signs alone” (Atwood, pg. 1). This quotation refers to how the written words have been removed out of the language, in order for the government to control its citizens from certain services such as literacy. In this quotation, the words and phrases such as “all written words anywhere have been removed” “the lettering… painted out,” and, “places are known by their signs,” means that the government has narrowed the language so much, that the citizens can only understand the important sections of the city, and not have the freedom to explore its vicinities.
In this paragraph, it is clear that the government uses the manipulation of the local lexicon, subsequently infringing on the rights of its local citizens. In the other novel, 1984 written by George Orwell, the citizens of Oceania experience another form of control, which is the violation to rights of privacy.
In this novel, Winston Smith described the conditions in the public square; mentioning that if an individual showed any miniscule sign of deceitfulness, then the government would arrest the criminal immediately, saying, “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face… ; was itself a punishable offence.
There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime… ” (Orwell, pg. 79). In this quotation, Winston Smith refers to the Big Brother’s legislative policies in which telescreens would be set-up in order to have control over its citizens. From the author using words and phrases such as “terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen,” “the smallest thing could give you away,” and,” improper expression on your face…; was itself a punishable offence,” shows that it is even dangerous to express the slightest sign of abnormality in front of the telescreen.
Not only does the government in Oceania violate the right to private and public privacy, but that in the government in Gilead the same occurrence ensues. This governmental violation of the right to private and public privacy, is most evident in the gymnasium, where Offred learned who to whisper almost without making a sound, explaining, “We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space.
We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June” (Atwood pg. 4). In this quotation, the handmaids exchange names through lip reading and through whispers. Through the words and phrases such as, “learned to whisper almost without sound,” “learned to lip-read,” and, “In this way we exchanged names,” means that because they had to lip-read and whisper, this shows the reader that the handmaids have no privacy to exchange names.
In this paragraph, it is noticeable that the government’s legislation and policy mitigates the right to privacy. Furthurmore, in the same novel, 1984, it can be seen that the government subjugates its people from sexual activity. In the novel, Winston fantasizes about making live with Julia as she travels across the field, saying, “The girl with dark hair was coming towards them across the field. With what seemed a single movement she tore off her clothes and flung them disdainfully aside.
Her body was white and smooth, but it aroused no desire in him, indeed he barely looked at it. What overwhelmed him in that instant was admiration for the gesture with which she had thrown her clothes aside. With its grace and carelessness it seemed to annihilate a whole culture, a whole system of thought, as though Big Brother and the Party and the Thought Police could all be swept into nothingness by a single splendid movement of the arm. That too was a gesture belonging to the ancient time” (Atwood, pg. 0). In this quote, Winston Smith dreams about Julia taking off her clothes as she runs across the field. Through the author using words and phrases such as, “she tore off her clothes,” “he barely looked at it,” and, “Big Brother and the Party and the Though Police,” shows that as Julia takes off her clothes on the field, Winston Smith barely looks at her body due to the Big Brother and the Parties legislation for the elimination of sexual promiscuity.
Not only does the government in Oceania take away the right to sexual activity, but that the government of Gilead also infringes on the right to sexual interest. This governmental infringement can also be seen in the ‘Handmaidens tale’ through Offred who makes it clear that throughout the narrative, she is apart of a collectively owned resource. She describes her tattoo as: “four digits and an eye, a passport in reverse. It’s supposed to guarantee that I will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape. I am too important…. I am a national resource. ” (Atwood 65).
This quote said by Offred of her describing her tattoo acts as a symbol of the tattoo itself that the government subjugates its people from sexual activity that they would desire and that women are only used as a resource to repopulate. In conclusion, the two narratives in which were written in a similar century, both George Orwell’s 1984, and Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, clearly use their book as a means of foretelling the future of a society monopolized by corruption from future technology by displaying how their government uses violence as a means of control over its people.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 November 2016
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