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An Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

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Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is in a class of its own. I have never read a book with its form of organization, syntax, or use of description and imagery. Atwood used these tools to awesome effect.

Atwood’s narrative is written in what seems as no order at all, yet as you get deeper into the book, you realize that it is chronologically arranged, with countless flashbacks thrown into it. It feels as if you’re reading a steady stream of thoughts straight out of a person’s mind. This technique makes Offred seem so much more realistic. She becomes a real person, a living, breathing, thinking, human being, not just a character out of some story.

The syntax of this novel is nicely varied. For the most part, the sentences are long and flowing, weaving a loom of conscious thought. Then, just as the speaker is becoming stressed, there is a series of short, clipped sentences and phrases, often with a cuss word thrown in for effect. This use of shorter sentences created tension in the flow of the story. It reinforces the feelings of Offred and created the same feelings within the reader.

The best aspect of Atwood’s narrative is her use of description and imagery. Every detail is delivered in a crisp, clean depiction that includes everything from color and size, to the materials it is made of and the significance behind it. Her use of imagery creates a world so sensuous as to be physically impossible. Everything is delivered; the texture, the taste, the scent. The reader is released into a world solely made up of touch, feel, taste, smell, and sound.

Atwood has created a world beyond imagination with her organization, syntax, and description and imagery. Her proficiency with these devices creates a book that is almost a living, breathing being, a being that everyone should meet.

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