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Dystopian Literature: Limiting Language Means Limiting Freedom

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Dystopian Literature question the potential power that language has in both Atwood ‘HMT’ and Orwell’s ‘1984’, where it presents the need to use language as a form of identity, gaining knowledge and its various uses in expressions.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ presents the loss of individualism by the handmaids’ patronymic names. Atwood deliberately uses preposition before the name of the commander in charge “Offred” to create a new identity so that they can fulfil the new function in the forceful regime. Similarly in 1984 the importance of name signifies the importance as Orwell only mentions Julia’s first name and not her last, which could contribute the notion of a woman’s last name being insignificant because of its changeability. This was usually at the time when the women would take the last names of their husband thus linking to 1984 and Handmaid’s Tale since this perception of a woman’s name therefore limits the freedom that women could experience. During Atwood’s time, second wave feminism was brought in to fights for their rights to vote and the many injustices that they were faced with in order to fight against these social conventions the novels are presenting.

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Language is presented in a deceptive manner in both ‘1984’ and ‘The handmaid’s tale’ as it also contributes to limiting freedom. In ‘1984’ there’s a clear indication of deceptiveness when the names of the buildings “Ministry of Love”, “Ministry of Truth”, “Ministry of Peace” are actually antonyms, thus creates a false appearance which employs the concept established in the novel called “doublethink” and also emphasises the actual role they have in Ingsoc. The Ministry of Truth specifically changes the truth of news, entertainment and more into fitting the party’s ideologies. This is similar to how Adolf Hitler, former leader of Nazi Germany, used education to imprint the Party’s ideology into children’s textbooks. These ideologies were to love Hitler, Anti-Semitism, militarism and to be obedient to one’s state. By also using familial terms such as “Big Brother” defies its loving nature of the words as its sole purpose is to become an icon that forces its citizens to idolise him or else face the consequences by being vaporised. In ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Atwood also uses a familiar term, “Aunts” to mask the threat they can cause. It is clear that the aunts have an important role in the society as Offred does link in throughout the novel of the different rules and expectations that “Aunt Lydia said,” a handmaid’s must hold. It links in with a darker motive of the government to use these figures in order indoctrinate the Handmaid’s into fulfilling their functions. Therefore language is used to deceive the citizens into believing the inaccurate truths and figures of the party, thus limiting their freedom.

By also controlling the language, it restricts the society’s individual right to express themselves by removing the individual thoughts that cannot be expressed. In ‘1984’ the government’s creation of “Newspeak” withdraws the citizen’s rights of freedom of speech as Symes exclaims that the “whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought,” so by narrowing the ways a human can express themselves, it would in a sense expel any rebellious behaviour as there would be no words to express these emotions. When Winston does get hold of a book and starts to write “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” he’s able to express himself properly. In ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ when Luke says to Offred about the meaning of Mayday, “It’s French he said. From Maidez/Help me” it encourages the readers to also reflect on the forgotten Origins of the English Language.

In conclusion, Dystopian Literature limits language in order to limit freedom by removing individualism that resides in names. So totalitarian governments like Ingsoc and Gilead’s society would rather deceive their citizens into believing in false reality that their world is fine by indoctrination but also unable to express that they’re oppressed.

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