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Name: Zheng Jiayin Index number: 10 Class: 5E

Power is kept in different ways. Some use drugs, some use force, some use consensus and common goals. Discuss the use and abuse of power in The Handmaids Tale and Brave New World as dystopian texts.

As dystopian texts, The Handmaids Tale and Brave New World both consist of a totalitarian governing body which have clearly divided social classes. Power and control are used to achieve the objectives of the state, and in both texts, power is used to achieve social stability by first ensuring the individual stability of the people contentment or passive acceptance of the values of the system and of their designated position in society. The use of power can be classified under these main categories power over the mind, power over the body and power over individual identity. Power is gained and maintained through the subversion and control of religion and science in The Handmaids Tale and Brave New World respectively. They provide the groundwork for the states rules, routines and values, and are used as social engineering tools to create the ideal society envisioned by the state. The ideology of religious fundamentalism, a conservative movement which emphasises on the literal interpretation and absolute infallibility of the Bible, is implemented by

the Republic of Gilead as a solution to the severe fertility problems which endangered the (Caucasian) human race, hence justifying the Republics ascent to power. Likewise, religion is also subverted in Brave New World, instilling Fordian material values in the people instead of spirituality. Science, too, is no longer the 1

path towards greater knowledge and truth, but acts as a social engineering tool to maintain social stability through the practice of eugenics to ensure fixed genetic characteristics of different castes. The states power over the minds both conscious and subconscious of its people is shown through its control of information and knowledge. For example, in The Handmaids Tale, the Republic of Gilead has total control of the news broadcast, thus restricting the information that people receive to state propaganda, which is validated by the Republic as proper knowledge. When information is scarce, people are more likely to believe and value any news available to them (Any news, now, is better than none [page 92]). The state also restricts access to knowledge by denying the common people any form of writing, including the Bible. This allows the regime to freely interpret the Bible to suit the states purposes, hence maintaining its power and control over the people. This is paralleled in Brave New World, where the World Controller personally decides whether a book is to be published and only state-approved writing is supplied to the people of higher castes. Literature and dangerous and potentially subversive books which question science are generally disallowed.

In was the sort of idea that might easily recondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes --- make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyondthe present human sphere (page 154)

Hence, the control of knowledge by the state is to ensure that the oppressed do not seek truth outside the values of the system and gain compulsion to rebel against it. 2

In Brave New World, control over peoples thoughts is more complete, as foetal conditioning and hypnopaedia enforce the values of the state in their subconscious mind, so any form of transgression is seen as abnormal and condemned. The recreational use of soma also serves to suppress any negative feelings of an individual which may lead to rebellion. This makes the people comfortable with their lack of freedom and they are more susceptible to government propaganda The state exercises power over its citizens through the control of food and sexuality (motif of fulfilment). In The Handmaids Tale, images of consumption are employed as a metaphor for power, which exemplifies the states oppression of women. By controlling what the Handmaids eat, the Gilead regime gains direct control over their bodies, which the society is dependent on. The link between food and control is also highlighted at the Red Centre, where women are prepared for their role as handmaids. As they take their meals, they are indoctrinated with Gileads ideals and religious ideologies:

Give me children, or else I die. Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? Behold my maid Billah. She shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And so on and so forth. We had it read to us every breakfast, as we sat in the high-school cafeteria, eating porridge with cream and brown sugarFor lunch it was the Beatitudes. Blessed be this, blessed be that. They played it from a disc, the voice was a man's. (pages 99-100)

The ritualizing of sexual intercourse with the authoritative backing of the Bible also reduces sexual activity to a matter of duty rather than the manifestation of passion 3

or love or romance (page 105), which exemplifies the states power over individual identity by stripping the citizens of personal fulfilment and replacing it with fulfilment of their social roles. In Brave New World, sex is regarded as a recreational activity rather than the embodiment of love, and the convention of promiscuous sex highlights the states defining value of everyone belongs to everyone else, making an individual merely a uniform and dispensable part of society. The states power over individual identity is clearly manifested in spatial control. For example, Offreds room is archaic and reduced to basic facilities, showing a lack of personal freedom of the Handmaids. In The Handmaids Tale, the state also imposes a restriction of movement in the form of barriers, checkpoints and barricades to prevent people from following paths other than the state-designated one. Constant state surveillance by the Eyes in both private and public spaces also shows a lack of personal privacy. In Gilead and the governing state of Brave New World, everyone is segregated into castes and defined by his function in society, hence the sacrifice of individual freedom and identity in the enforcement of social roles. Power is maintained over the citizens by replacing their personal identity with a communal identity, which is emphasised in Solidarity Services in Brave New World, which communizes the private act of sex (the joining of twelve separate people into a Greater Being) and Birth Days in The Handmaids Tale, which foster a common consciousness and a sense of belonging in Gilead. The Republic of Gilead and the governing state of Brave New World have absolute power over the people, and one in a position of power can easily exploit it to his own advantage, especially when an abuse of power has no serious consequences. The states power to inflict punishment upon its citizens instils fear in them and pressures them to conform. Such threats include execution in Salvagings 4

or relocation to Colonies in The Handmaids Tale, and to the islands in Brave New World. People with military power, such as Aunts and Angels (with electric cattle prods) in Gilead, can freely inflict physical harm on the citizens who do not submit to the regulations of the state. People in power are also able to abuse this privilege for their own benefits, which are likely to contradict the values of the system. For example, the Commander uses his power to subvert some of Gileads values by allowing Offred to engage in forbidden reading and indecent intellectual games of Scrabble and even requests for Offred to show genuine affection towards him in prohibited acts of intimacy. Similarly, Helmholtz uses his power as a lecturer to spread his own value system to his students through his poem which expresses feelings of loneliness and abnormal awareness of ones individuality.

References CliffsNotes on Huxleys Brave New World CliffsNotes on Atwoods The Handmaids Tale http://www.huxley.net/ http://www.dictionary.com/ Vinas Presentation on Dystopian Literature Aaron and Linettes Presentation on Power in The Handmaids Tale