• The protagonist of the text – Offred
  • short and to the point paragraphs about symbols, characters, themes
  • everything has meaning
  • “everything that had happened in the handmaid’s tale had happened, somewhere at some time” – Margaret Atwood
  • rich, figurative language
  • uses the language for imagery
  • speculative fiction – what could happen in the future
  • future that could unfold

The dystopian speculative fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” authored by Margaret Atwood, makes you feel so grateful to be living in such a successful and politically correct country on New Zealand. Atwood uses rich figurative language in the text to help the readers understand and create imagery in the reader’s minds. By using symbolic descriptions within the novel, it utilises and depicts themes, symbols and setting creating vivid images. Atwood’s detailed portrayals of the elements of the novel have been carefully structured in which every word has a specific meaning and order the description allowing clear illustrations to be formed in the reader’s minds. Winning the Governor General’s award, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a very powerful novel in which people fear over the speculative fiction it contains. 

“I sit in my chair, the wreath on the ceiling floating above my head, like a frozen halo, a zero. A hole in space where a star exploded. A ring, on water where a stone’s been thrown. All things white and circular.” Atwood begins the chapter with this sentence representing the setting of Offred’s room. This sentence has been arranged in a way that every word has a meaning. For example, 

This passage starts off with Offred sitting in a room on a chair with a wreath pattern above her. Wreaths are usually associated with death and funeral corresponding to the symbol used by Christians meaning immortality, live forever. She then goes on to refer it to a halo of an angel and then a zero. I believe what she means by zero is worthless and the meaning of oblivion showing us the reader that it  has a negative connotation and is adverse in living in Gilead which is a totalitarian regime town in America. She continues to explain the wreath like arrangement on ceiling above her. “A hole in space where a star exploded.” An explosion of a star is caused by the death of a star which also refers to the feeling of the handmaids of being imprisoned and stifled. The metaphor of “A ring, on water where a stone’s been thrown” implements the idea of her imagination still being present when she has been starved of happiness. “All thing white” relates to the idea of everything being blank and empty and the feeling of isolation and lonely. She has been torn from her world and feels meaningless and lack of purpose in this totalitarian world she has been forced into. She tries not think of the easy way to get out of it, suicide. The circular pattern referred to next is the ora of the light on the ceiling. The cord holding the light bulb has been removed so there’s no place for a rope to hang from. The light coming straight from the ceiling creates a circular shadow in the room. The circle shape also raised amongst the book with the “eyes.” People who spy on the handmaids to ensure no retaliation on the government. The light constantly reminds her to do everything she is told to do even though it makes her experience the feelings of emptiness and feelings of emotional numbness and despair.


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  1. Yes, you’ll need some deletions and editing when we come back in Term Two – remember it is a Critical Review, not a Literary essay! Have a great time at camp, Claudia.


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