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'The Handmaids Tale' And 'The Clockwork Orange'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2926 words Published: 18th Apr 2017

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The manipulation of language in the ‘The Handmaids Tale’ is seen as ‘chilling’, ‘satirical’ and ‘suspenseful’. This dystopian fiction portrays both the ‘cultural construction of female identity’ and with different historical interpretations in which is in relation to. The theme of objectification of women seems prominent in the society of Gilead. With the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and deaths becoming more prominent, the government took action. They objectified women by exploiting them and using them to create more children in the world by using them for sexual breeding. Ruth Cosstick reviews the book ‘The Handmaids Tale’ and quoted ‘the misuse of the environmental and human resources at the disposal of today’s culture.’ This shows that Ruth Cosstick thought the novel was the misuse of women in society and should be a direct warning to the future of women. The use of language and the perception of this let the audience see how ‘Offred’ lost her birth name and everything in life and how she succumbs, as she is considered as ‘property’.

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The strengths of these interpretations are that we are able to see the severity of what is happening to Offred and we can clearly see the effect that they have on her and as the reader we can relate or feel the emotions of her character. The weaknesses of these interpretations are that not all of them are clear in perceiving the message, as Atwood would have preferred. These are effective in making more awareness.

The manipulative language has been carefully selected to represent women and who they are. It has been cultivated around symbolism such as the colours. The most prominent of colours is red in which are the gowns used by the Handmaids to define that they are part of that ‘culture’ and is worn daily. The use of red is to portray the blood of birth, which in contrast for Atwood, is a positive correlation with the women of the society in the futuristic totalitarian theocracy. The colour can also be seen as a negative correlation to the women and show more emotion of how they are feeling, this could portray sadness, unhappiness, depression and anger for women who are seen as the victim. This could be seen as a ploy for wanting some normality in her life, ‘I’m ravenous for news, any kind of news; even if it’s false news …’ this quotation conveys her desperation for something new to happen and to know more. She is ravenous, in this quote, because she has got to hear news and due to her being so isolated, she is unable to hear much or have much of a life outside of being a handmaid. This also portrays a sense of desperation and entrapment in this life that she has and they’re maybe no going back.

Many of the accounts through the novel are verbalized from the past and present. It is told as if you are inside her head and see everything from a first person point of view. ‘It’s a reconstruction, in my head …’ although we see the reconstruction of her memories, we see to what extend it has caused. Although she is the narrator of the novel, she has no sense of individuality as she was stripped of her identity. This is done through the objectification of women in the 1960’s in which the inspiration came from. Also the fact that women were the inferior ones and men took advantage of women as they had the social and political power of women. This is effective because we are then able to see the different views that Atwood was trying to portray and give meanings which are shaped around the language in which Atwood chose. The manipulation of language portrays this with her name ‘Offred’ meaning un-women showing how she, herself, lost all sense of personality as if it was taken away from her. Due to the social order of women being undermined by males, she is seen as ‘property’ but has one purpose. We see that she ‘The accepted response’ is given but we can see that Atwood as given a short sentence showing dominance over her and being accepted as being a ‘victim’.

The use of the game scrabble and her vocabulary becomes prominent in her using this to try and cover up her pain and anger towards what she has been subjected to. We see the attempt of her trying to change the tone by adding in little hints such as ‘Flowers’ which can be seen as an attempt by Plath to see that she maybe struggling but is trying to get through it as best as she can. Scrabble can also be seen as a very intellectual game with a lot of use of the brain, and the fact that Offred is holding all these feelings back and using Scrabble to distract her from the horror of what is going on around her.

The use of weaving in and out of the story and telling it through Offred’s tale is the most powerful use language in the novel. The effect of this narrative in the novel is that not all that is told is truth. The scarce information and knowledge of the tale put with Offred’s story shows a more depicted story line with gaps but a more enticing story. But with this we see a very dissimilar narrative rather than a straightforward narrative. This is due to her straying of topic from time to time such as talking about flowers and asking rhetorical questions which may not be even remotely related to one another and the use of a certain manner shows this with her being more intellectual and careful of how she portrays herself in the novel. This is an effective use of manipulating language because we are able to see how she is reacting to what the government and have subjected to her and we are able to sympathize with the character Offred as though she is living through a rare life experience.

In contrast to the Clockwork Orange, the language is presented also as very dominating and powerful as Burgess is introducing a whole new language to the reader. The manipulation to the reader of this new language is very enticing but it gives us more in depth understanding of the violence and feelings towards the protagonist and as to why he commits the crimes and to the extent of why he does. This is very effective of Burgess to use in manipulating language through a new language (Nadsat) is because we see in the novel a delinquent protagonist with moral views that cause the crimes that he commits, but with him being fluent in the language, we are able to see a different intelligent side to Alex which portrays to the reader as very different from first impressions when beginning the novel. This is effective because we are able to see what his emotions are and the stages he goes through to commit the crimes.

With the use of archaic Russian, English, American slang, parts of the Jacobean prose, and gypsy language, Burgess is able to cleverly construct a fluent language (Nadsat meaning ‘teen’) in which the protagonist, Alex, communicates well in ‘The Clockwork Orange’. Burgess has a profound ability to interpret the political and economical strains as groundwork for the novel. The use of youth culture is effective in ‘Clockwork Orange’ as you can clearly the see what Burgess had witnessed and the effect of the panic of this era had caused in the 1960’s. Burgess has also been able to disclose the idea of the changes and society with people becoming more rebellious with causing rifts through out. This became apparent after the novel was published and reflects on the culture through out the 1960’s. This shows the mindset and mentality of Alex and in which the horrors of a world he lives in. ‘Eggiweg’ is a prime example of the language and shows the childish nature of Alex but a depressive tone is showed through the translation of drugs ‘Moloko’.

The approach to the manipulation of the language in this dystopian novel is yet innovative but an unusual approach to terror. Rather than the typical making you jump out of your seat terror, it is more mind consuming with the random acts of violence and the approach in which it has been taken. It is more shocking because we see a level to violence in which the reader will be shocked and will ask why did he do that? And what caused him to do such controversial crimes? This being effective in the novel as it gives a different emotion to the novel, more of attention seeking than anything else. This manipulation of language into the level of violence causes the reader to re-think the novel more and analyse the character of Alex more in depth. The manipulation of language has created a depressive, yet intriguing setting to the novel. The violence and corruption of Alex contributes to this making it more shocking than the typical elements of the gothic terror.

The use of the Ludovico technique is to some what has a high level of extremity as we see the level that the prisons and government go through in order to make Alex a better person. When then from this point see a different person in Alex and the changes that are made to him. This is effective in the manipulation of language because it intrigues the reader into reading more into the story, and we feel more sympathy for Alex as we see that he is a good person and wants to change.

The use of manipulating language by Burgess can be seen as an attempt to create a more moral and psychological journey in coherence to Alex’s growth into becoming a better man. The growth and standardization of Alex’s language is distancing from the reader. This is due to the fact that the language will be hard and confusing for the reader to understand and relies on the protagonist to portray the meaning of some of the words. This is a way in which Alex vents his feelings to society and a way of him seeing it as if he is rebelling against society.

In contrast with Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’, language is manipulated for the effect of the psychological power of men over women is in similar contrast with ‘The Clockwork Orange’. This is because Atwood uses the fact of in society men were always the more dominant in a relationship and in general politics. Atwood uses this effectively in portraying the different layers and how women just had to accept that they were the inferior ones to men. We see this in ‘The Clockwork Orange’ where Alex goes on a crime spree and rapes an innocent woman and burgles the house. We see the dominant male figure here in wanting the woman to do as he says and comply with his demands. The use of extreme language manipulates us into thinking that the severity is even more intense than first anticipated and keeps the reader on edge as to what will happen.

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The figurative techniques used in ‘The Clockwork Orange’ help manipulate language to create the dystopian feel but still to portray the extremism of the violence. This is done with dark humour and irony, for example the dotted repetition through the novel of the language and of the acts he commits. The most prominent of irony is the use of the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the violent acts that he commits and to life’s adequate pleasures. For example, education and religion are seen as grotesque and unearthly and seems against the idea of a normal life with life’s everyday pleasures. Which we see here that in Alex’s head, everything is vice versa and seems to have a different outlook on life than a normal human being would want.

After his reformation, by the government, we see more of an ethical side to Alex, ‘… what, brother, had I escaped into a sleep … I might have presented the other cheek …’ Here, we see Alex becoming more involved in life and thinking about his actions more. Also we see him contemplating more his emotions towards different aspects in life and seeing a more moral and religious side to life. This is effective in manipulating language in the novel because we are able to see the transaction of Alex from childish behaviour and committing crimes, to a well grown up man looking for a new start in life.

The use of metaphors and similes is very prominent in when reading the novel. These are mostly very unorthodox areas and in the most unusual placing sometimes in the more serious areas of the novel and some notably in first part of the novel. The more shocking of them being when they break into the ‘Home’, and Burgess cunningly uses an extended metaphor ‘… no more like ten …’ This is portraying their laid back nature to life and rate the woman they raped lower and more inferior than they are. This was a common act committed in the 1960’s where men objectified women and were highly amused by women being more inferior than they are and abused this fact. Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and enforced sterilization was recognised as a crime against humanity of women. Although it was enforced in the 1960’s, sexual transmitted diseases were still on the on the rise and was spreading fast. Women were becoming more carriers throughout. Many women protested to stop rape and discriminating women in society but weren’t always noticed. We see this is ‘The Clockwork Orange’ where Alex rapes a helpless woman and has to pay the price for what they did to her. This is an effective interpretation as Burgess effectively makes aware of what men were doing to woman and the consequences were bad for the women who had to experience it.

Subverting the form in ‘The Clockwork Orange’ is done effectively by Burgess in order to be more creative in the language chosen and the effectiveness that youth culture has on society. The use of the unmindful and biased is used for us to be able to see both sides of the view put across. The effect that this has on the form is that you are able to have more of a flowing story and are able to follow the story well. This way you are able to have more of an intimate connection with the protagonist, Alex, and we are able to ask ourselves are own questions and form an opinion on Alex and the story being told. Despite the pain and conflict that he caused, we still feel obliged to be sympathetic towards Alex for how naïve he is on life and his immature attitude towards it. So with this, we struggle to form an opinion in some ways as he doesn’t understand the implications that he is causing and doesn’t do much for his future. This is effective in subverting the form because we are able to create to different opinions of Alex but we can see a metaphysical journey of him trying to change for the better.

The strengths of these interpretations are that are that we are able to have a well thought out novel with a whole new language in which the reader can pick up. The reader is also intrigued by the use of language to portray the different meanings of the language such as extremism of violence, and the intimacy between him and the people who try and help him through his journey to adulthood. The weaknesses, however, are that we still have some parts of the novel in which you will want to be more involved and more aware of his feelings and your not so you have to ask the questions yourself or think what would it be like to be in his shoes? This is effective because the language is then manipulated well enough to help shape these for the reader to understand more and to stay intimate through it.

In contrast to ‘The Handmaids Tale’, the forms of them both are similarly approached. With ‘The Handmaids Tale’ it is formed through the use of cassette readings and sparse memories put together to create a vivid but intimate story of the metaphysical journey of Offred through her torment. But with ‘The Clockwork Orange’ it is done through the use of a metaphysical journey of Alex, from committing crimes and objectifying women to becoming a well grown up business man living the life of a normal man. These are both effective because we see it shape the novels to create a story but are both very intimate as we see each stage and feel each emotion.

Julian Mitchell reviews the book as ‘A brilliant mixture of horror and farce, calling Burgess’ use language an extraordinary technical feat.’ This is showing that the use of language is the key aspect in the novel in forming the form and story around this but done in a professional that is both intriguing and exciting to read.

To conclude, I believe that the language is best manipulated in Burgess’s ‘The Clockwork Orange’ because the creativity of the new language created ‘Nadsat’ is both ingenious and intriguing for the reader and gives them a different perspective on society. However, in ‘The Handmaids Tale’ the form is subverted much more appropriately and keeps more of an intimate relationship with the reader. We see that the use of cassette readings being told and made in to the novel is very innovative and a clever way for women to relate to, to see how they experienced it and to put an awareness out to other women. In contrast to one another, language is very well presented in the two different forms contrasting how differently they are written and the way they are presented to the reader.


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