Language in The Handmaid essays

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Language in The Handmaid essays

The nature of language as a means of expression and exchange of thoughts means it is never purely objective and functional – it will necessarily reflect the attitudes and values of the society which has created it. Even the word'ideology' is derived from the Latin word'logos' which means word or discourse. Therefore, as language is not created in a vacuum, examination of the words and their derivations, meanings and usage can reveal the underlying philosophy of a culture. Often language is manipulated by those who are in power to further enforce their own tenets and beliefs, and to strengthen the divisions of power in the community. This is exemplified in Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale where a restrictive, fascist regime has overtaken the United States of America and transformed it into the Republic of Gilead. The ideologies of this regime, specifically the value of reproduction and procreation for survival above all else, the limit of sensorial experiences and desire, particularly of a sexual nature, and restrictions on meaningful emotional bonds between members of the society are represented in the language use it promotes. As a religious fundamentalist regime, the orchestrators of Gilead use the Bible selectively and falsify passages to seemingly legitimise their brutal and immoral principles. Power in this society is at its most basic level, of "who can do what to whom", and there is a strict hierarchical system with male authority figures, the senior Commanders, Eyes and various military personnel being empowered to a degree by the regime. Women are treated as second-class citizens, and are separated within their own gender to different levels of power and freedoms according to their reproductive ability and class.
The main strategy of the regime's creators is to group the public in prescribed roles, to diminish the possibility for individuality, bond…