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How Are Dystopias Portrayed in ‘the Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘1984’

  • Date Submitted: 10/06/2012 08:37 AM
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How are dystopias portrayed in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘1984’

We may perceive the idea of dystopia as a state or place in which there is a culmination of terrible instances in the way of oppression and ‘an imaginary place or society in which everything is bad.’ Indeed, what we find makes the dystopian genre so believable is that although these instances are ‘accordingly futile to seek out, they nevertheless exist tantalisingly (or frighteningly) on the edge of possibility.’   and thus we may consider these novels as social critiques of their era.
The structure of the novels allows for symbolic of the dystopia. Chapter two of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ opens with ‘A chair, a table, a lamp.’, the second paragraph with, ‘A window, two white curtains,’ the next: ‘A bed’. This culmination of simple sentences restricts the narrative and it appears that in these mundane room descriptions, Atwood is depicting the limits put in place by the Republic of Gilead. We may suggest the asyndetic lists focus on how life has become a blur through their speeding up of the monologue – nothing out of the ordinary happens. Moreover, the lack of premodifying adjectives denotes these women are not allowed to think for themselves – told the least of their situation. Similarly, 1984 features simple declarative sentences:
‘The Ministry of Truth which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education and fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.’
Arguably, the syntactic parallelism of these sentences represents the manner in which control of expression was absolute and it hints at people’s fear through mechanical reciting of what is fact alone. We may consider the use of the oxymoron as evidence for this oppression of communication. There are juxtapositions in connotation of ‘peace’ and ‘war’, similarly with ‘love’ and ‘law and order’....

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