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Use Of Figurative Language In The Handmaid's Tale

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In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the protagonist, Offred, expresses her wish that her “story [is] different,” that it is “happier,” or at least “more active, less hesitant, less distracted” than it is ultimately portrayed (267). However, as her story is told, these characteristics are evident in the way she talks and acts, especially around those with authority. Hesitant to express her true thoughts and feelings, and distracted by memories from her previous life, Offred attempts to piece together her role in the society that has taken her freedom. The result is a compilation of moments, of memories, both from her present, her past, and even speculation about her future. This collection consists of various emotions, and…show more content…
A suppressed, detached tone is formed as a result of figurative language, syntax, and diction in such situations. The use of specific figurative language, especially similes and imagery, is essential in the development of this detached, painful tone when Offred is describing her present feelings. For instance, when Offred describes her relationship with the Marthas, she recalls how their interactions include “soft and minor” voices that are as “mournful as pigeons in the eaves troughs.” (11) Imagery is used to illustrate the “closed face and pressed lips,” of the Marthas, and Offred herself is considered “like a disease, or any form of bad luck.” (10) It is evident that Offred feels alone and ostracized, and is not able to have a true connection with those around her. The author also uses rhetorical questions such as “Why tempt her to friendship?” to emphasize the lack of even the possibility of a meaningful connection between Offred and the Marthas. This use of figurative language highlights the inescapable suffering and isolation that Offred encounters while interacting with others, and achieves a hollow, detached tone. In factual recollections of the events occurring, diction and syntax are also crucial in the construction of this isolated, resigned tone While describing exchanges between herself and the rest of the household, Offred uses short, precise sentences, void of intricate words or complex structure. This can be seen in her conversation with Rita, in which she often replies using only one word, such as “alright,” without a smile or real engagement (11). This tone is reflected in the Marthas, whose sentences are also condensed, such as “Tell them fresh, for the eggs,” or “Nobody asking you” (10-11). It is apparent that neither group is comfortable, or willing, to share
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