Literary Devices In The Handmaids

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The Aunts of Gilead use specific word choices to suppress viewpoints that contradict their own. For instance, they believe that casual sex is an abomination, so when teaching the handmaids, Aunt Lydia insists, “A thing is valued … only if it is rare and hard to get. We want you to be valued girls” (Atwood 114). Aunt Lydia uses a specific word, “valued,” to generate certain emotion in her audience. Unlike some of its synonyms, such as “useful” or “of service,” the word “valued” creates a desire to be considered of worth and importance. This is how Aunt Lydia manipulates the handmaids into believing that women must be “hard to get,” or rarely have sex, in order to be worth anything, and thereby promotes the idea that casual sex is obscene. Furthermore, …show more content…
Repetition was used in multiple lessons provided by the Aunts for the purpose of influencing the handmaids’ beliefs. During Testifying, repetition occurs when Janine talks about how she was gang-raped as a child. Aunt Helena asked Janine, “But whose fault is it?” All of the handmaids at the Red Center start chanting “Her fault. Her fault. Her fault.” Then, when asked, “Who led them on?” everyone repeats, “She did. She did. She did,” because Janine is expected to take responsibility for leading her rapists on by the way she dressed (71-72). Repetition adds conviction to what is being said, as well as makes what is being said appear to be popular opinion. Due to the added conviction and appearance of popular opinion among the handmaids, repetition reinforced the viewpoint that a woman should not show her skin, and if she does, the woman is at-fault for any sexual wrongdoings that occur. A less obvious example of repetition is Aunt Lydia’s use of either/or statements. On page 8, Offred looks around her room and recalls Aunt Lydia describing it as “not a prison but a privilege.” She then notes how Aunt Lydia was “in love with either/or.” This love for either/or appears again on page 24 when Aunt Lydia states, “There is more than one kind of freedom… freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it from freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.” This constant use of either/or statements reinforces that idea that in order to gain one thing, one must lose another. If the handmaids believe that they must always choose between one thing and another, the Aunts can manipulate them into thinking that the Aunts’ beliefs are superior to others. For instance, the Aunts make the handmaids believe they have a choice: wear revealing clothes and get raped (72) or cover up and be protected (118). Clearly, when comparing these two options, the Aunts’ option of

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