One of the of the themes of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was the ever-present estrangement throughout the novel. Although things in Gilead society seem to appear normal, the reader knows nothing is as it seems. This produces a nostalgic and almost sickening feeling as one reads the novel.
A specific example is Gilead’s false pro-women advocacy, the reality is women are subjugated and ultimately viewed as subhuman. In Gilead society women are reduced to nothing more than their reproductive capabilities. As Offred describes, “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will… Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping” (Atwood 73-74). Offred’s description of her own body describes how Gilead only value women for their uteruses and their ovaries. One could even go so far and argue that they are slaves of the state, with their bodies owned.
Further estrangement occurs in a society based upon misogyny. The women are traumatized and demoralized, through ceremonies of forced rape. This rape is then juxtaposed with the communities supposed acknowledge of rape as an evil, punishable by death. The only difference in these two instances is if the government has sanction the rape to occur or not. The handmaid’s name is the taking on of the word “Of” and their master’s name, makes the handmaid not just a possession of the state but of their master as well. Although The Handmaid’s Tale possess many of the characteristics of a normal functioning society, the characters within the novel know something is just not right about the circumstances.
1: Conrad’s Heart of darkness, startled me a couple of years ago when I first read it. At that time I did not have a lot of back ground knowledge to the topics adressed in the book. I wanted to read it again is because in this course we talked a lot about colonialism, about westerners being subject to influence of unknown territories, about natives being victimized by the colonialists and so on. These themes are also present in Heart of Darkness and since we read The island of Doctor Moreaux, Robinson Crusoe but also A Small Place and Blu’s Hanging I feel that I have a better understanding of (post) colonial texts.
As I will be focusing on the Harlequin, I will need to close-read Marlow’s encounter with him carefully. Also Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz and the role of The Company in the story will be of importance to my writings about the function of the Harlequin in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
2: However, at this point there are many things that I still don’t fully grasp. If a complex book as Heart of Darkness can ever be fully grasped. The following questions are important to my analysis:
1) How is the seemingly light character of the Harlequin to be seen in such a heavy and dark story?
2) How come that the wilderness and the darkness of the Congo have such a different impact on the Harlequin compared to the other characters?
3) Why did Conrad include this character in the story?
4) What does this character symbolize in the story?
5) What is according to previous research the general idea of the book?
3: The reason why I want to write about this book is because it seems to me the best example of estrangement. Not only in terms of the plot but perhaps even more so because of Conrad’s writing style. He totally estranges me as a reader from what happens in the story by his elaborate descriptions of the impenetrable wilderness. I’m also intrigued by Conrad’s tendency to mystify and abstract both his characters and their surroundings. Also,iIt is not at all a clear-cut idea that he puts forward. This book leaves me pondering. I hope through writing about it to enlarge my understanding of it tad more.