Language

Style of language

The language of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is mostly straightforward and accessible. The tone is generally dark, reflecting the brutal and cruel conditions in which the narrator is living. At one point, she apologizes for this: “I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force.” (Chapter 41, 11%). 

The darkness of the main narrative is made sadder by Offred’s more nostalgic descriptions of her past life: “I close my eyes, and she’s there with me, suddenly, without warning, it must be the smell of the soap. I put my face against the soft hair at the back of her neck and breathe her in.” (Chapter 12, 25%)

The narrative includes a number of jargon words used by the Gilead regime which are either invented or have new meanings. For example, Offred has to attend a “Prayvaganza” (in which prayers are said and Commanders’ daughters are married) and a “Salvaging” (in which peo...

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