English Literature A-Level AQA Spec B HELP!

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I’m currently studying The Handmaid’s Tale and The Kite Runner. My targets are As and at the minute i can only get a C and sometimes a B in English, which is disheartening considering it was my favourite subject. Please comment down below anything that would help me improve my essays, no tip is too simple. My teacher hasn’t mentioned critics but some videos I have watched suggest including them, are they needed? How do you revise? How do you stop writing in a GCSE style? I will post a short sample essay of mine below of The Handmaid’s Tale.

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How are elements of rebellion presented in chapters 4-6?

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is thought to be written in response to a change in US politics and the emergence of Christian fundamentalism and conservative views or the New Right. Atwood depicts a dystopian society in the “speculative” fiction, (as she describes it in the article ‘Aliens have taken the place of Angels’), in a typically relatable environment with elements of realty, to warn the reader of totalitarian power. However, the protagonist, Offred, often defies the laws, carrying out small, illicit protests against the subjugating regime.

In chapter 4 the tense switches to the present day, highlighting the importance of the rebellion to come whilst on Offred and Ofglen’s shopping trip. Towards the beginning of the chapter, Offred describes the surroundings, using dark imagery such as, ‘black…the colour of prestige or a hearse’, reflecting the lack of hope or the control of those higher in the social hierarchy who are ‘prestige’ and do not have to fear death or punishment. The colour ‘black’ carries connotations of evil, which could reflect Offred’s true representation of the Gileadean government, or alternatively, it could represent grief and how she mourns for her daughter, Luke and her old life. This contrast of ‘prestige’, suggesting luxury and power, with death could symbolise how those in power rebel against their own regime, revealing its flaws. Or, perhaps instead this idea of luxury opposed with death could mirror how those in power prohibited happiness, withdrew rights and carried out mass executions, likening Gilead to Hell. An example of those in power rebelling, is within the same paragraph, as Nick ‘has a cigarette stuck in the corner of his mouth’, exploiting his disobedience towards the laws and Gilead’s prohibited list of rules. Another act he commits, which violates the law, is winking at Offred, foreshadowing their further protest and illegal love affair. These acts of rebellion from the character, who is meant to be of a high status, could foreshadow the idea that Nick is part of the underground rebellion group, ‘Mayday’. The phrase ‘Mayday’, comes from the French term, ‘m’aidez’, which was used in World War I and means ‘help me’.

In this chapter the pair show the guards their passes to enter through the ‘barrier’, whilst a guard tries to rebelliously look at the narrator, despite the act being forbidden. She enjoys the act of defiance and the forbidden action; she ‘sways’ her hips as she walks away, taunting the men, who have no outlets for their sexual urges, as they also are now powerless and lack control of their own situations. Offred says, ‘A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.’, this contradiction shows that Offred can exhibit rebellion, but only within the limits of society. This also links to this quotation given by Atwood, which describes Offred’s situation, “The more limited and boxed in you are, the more important details become”. This means that the majority of her rebellion is via her thoughts, which develops as she receives more control of her body, and that despite the minuteness of her protests, they are still important.

Throughout the chapters, Offred protests silently and mentally, calling Ofglen a ‘real believer’, shining light on her own disbelief and disapproval of the system. Offred’s rebellious thoughts and Atwood’s use of analepsis, acts as an act of psychological survival for the protagonist as it resists the physical control of Gilead, e.g. ‘The first barrier’ or ‘the Wall’. As well as her mental rebellion, she carries out ‘tiny peepholes’ of protest, suggesting that the adrenaline and excitement is what keeps her alive. Offred often rebels against the system and the guards by using romantic or sexual imagery, describing how she is in control of the men, although in a patriarchal society. She also mentions how she hopes to torment and arouse the guards. However, the juxtaposition of romantic, poetic language, such as ‘kiss’ and ‘teasing’, is controlled by the war imagery of ‘floodlights’, ‘rifle shots’ and ‘duty’, giving the impression that Gilead is stronger and more powerful, that there is no hope for love in Gilead and no escape, but only a purpose to be fulfilled. On the other hand, the association of guns and kisses could alternatively suggest her indoctrination and that she is coming to accept Gilead’s views unconsciously, suggesting failed rebellion.

In chapter 5 , I feel that Offred goes against what Gilead hopes to create by hanging the bodies on the Wall. The bodies are meant to create fear and act as a symbol of warning, yet Offred has become dehumanised and conditioned to ‘the bells’ and the bodies, which she describes as a ‘new batch’, as if they were produce. She describes a feeling of ‘blankness’ towards the bodies, emphasising her confused feelings and now mechanical mind, which lacks emotion. This unintentional rebellion exploits Gilead’s flawed routine and the futility of the brutality.
TSR Jessica
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