How the narrators are used in Handmaids and Frankenstein (Offred's use…
How the narrators are used in Handmaids and Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein’s unhealthy ardour and preoccupation on his monster drowns out external descriptions in the book, reflecting his unnatural obsession over his creation and studious nature. The detailed emotive content gives a very self-centred insight into his thought process, and Shelley uses this to invoke a certain sense of sympathy for Frankenstein.
Like the monster, the book has been patched together of different parts due to it's narrative structure and intertextual nature, with many allusions e.g. Paradise Lost
Characters Walton and Margaret acts as mirrors for Victor and Elizabeth, as echoes that show human nature is recurrent
Walton in the letters is shown to parallel Victor in his claim that "There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand" (LII)
Walton in the letters is also isolated and acts as a mirror for Victor, showing that his flaws are ones of mankind LII-"I have no friend, Margaret; when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy"
Walton's sister plays the same role as Elizabeth/Caroline LII- "my best years spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage"
Frankenstein has three narrators- Walton, Victor and the monster
‘It’s strange now, to think about having a job.’ The adjective ‘strange’ has negative connotations of both irregularity and of a divergence from what is naturally good, whilst the qualifying adverb ‘now’ only serves to highlight the differences in Offred’s thinking and her situation in comparison to former years
Offred's use of flashbacks and unreliability of her story presents her as fatigued and chronologically challenged, highlighting the emotional trauma of the regime
Train of thought means details are delayed for tension/suspense
"It's also a story I'm telling, in my head, as I go along"
CH7 "I have nothing to write with and writing in any case is forbidden"
This could be an intentional parallel of Offred’s own life, as she traverses the minefield that is life in Gilead for any woman, regardless of caste. This creates a sense of hungry observation within the reader, despite the continual limits placed upon them by Offred’s lack of explanation or her own lack of knowledge.
Obvious as she inserts neologisms immediately that the reader will not understand such as "Aunts" "the Angels" and "Marthas"
Offred is also used through her flashbacks to remind the reader that she has not always been this way and that the same could happen to them, as she used to be just like modern readers- heightening Atwood's intention of warning due to political context
C20- "Don't you know...how many women's bodies, the tanks had to roll over just to get that far?" (-offred's mother)
Conservatism of Reagen and Thatcher- fears of liberalisation of women in 70's being undone
An inaccurate anti-abortion video prompted the bombings of clinics across the country, and Orrin Hatch also introduced a personhood bill to the floor which would have banned abortion
1980 Republicans withdrew support for the Equal Rights Act that would have entrenched minority rights
Offred describes her surroundings in vivid detail and has become increasingly observant which could be interpreted as passive, simply experiencing the oppression- yet she has burst of internal assertiveness to remind us of her humanity
Could argue however that Offred’s sense of self and therefore the defiant nature of her narrative tone fluctuates and at points almost disappears within the narrative, only resurging with the arrival of other revolutionary figures such as Moira, Ofglen and by extension the underground organisation of Mayday
CH13- "I want a cigarette."
Offred claiming she “wants it finished” adding an assertiveness that we have been sensitised to throughout her rather more passive narrative
Offred is also used to show the impact of brainwashing that Gilead can have even on the seemingly strongest women, shown in scatterings of Gileadean sentiments amongst her internal rebellion, evoking sympathy from readers and allowing empathy for her situation
There was a trend in control of language seen in Native American oppression and the use of Russian in Hungarian schools during occupation, much like the handmaids
CH5- "No man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us", the first concept is positive but then Offred derails into reality as she realises the result of this positive implication is also a complete isolation of women and men
CH5- "Women were not protected then. I remember the rules, rules that were never spelled out but that every woman knew"
Offred and the other Handmaids are stripped of identity and their names are removed, so Offred attempts to regain her individuality in every way she can, through small personal assertions
Displayed in her use of 7/15 chapters being 'night' and ○ CH7- "The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will"
CH14- "My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden"
Offred's first person narrative is utilized to show the individual impact of oppressive systems upon those involved, so to humanize and counteract the mass generalization of the women into groups
This aids the reader in their emotional attachment to Offred, knowing that she is perhaps safe, the fact that she is retelling the story indicating her escape.
CH4- "Doubled, I walk the street"
CH12- "I pull the plug"- reference to bath could be a double meaning/reference