By comparing the two novels, in what ways do you believe Burgess and Atwood explore the representation of linguistic communication in dystopian societies?


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The dystopian novel has become the pillar of scientific discipline and near future fiction, from its beginnings in the fiftiess with Aldous Huxley’sBrave New Worldand George Orwell’s1984to the more recent hacker plants of Jeff Noon and William Gibson, the creative activity of a future universe that is both terrorizing and antithetical to humanity allows authors to both exert their imaginativenesss and remark on their modern-day society. The novel of dystopia so can be viewed from a figure of different positions: as scientific discipline fiction, as a warning, as a horror narrative and, more significantly, as a sarcasm on the modern-day socio-political state of affairs.

With this in head, this essay attempts to analyze the importance that linguistic communication plays in two of the most widely read dystopian works since the sixtiess: Anthony Burgess’A Clockwork Orange( 2000 ) and Margaret Atwood’sThe Handmaid’s Tale( 1996 ) . Both of these books are set in a close hereafter that is, at one time, recognizable and markedly different and each besides, as we shall see, asserts the importance of linguistic communication as a manner of commanding ideas, feelings and behaviors:A Clockwork Orangemaking a user defined slang andThe Handmaid’s Tale, a totalitarian semantic that serves to repress and suppress.


Before we look at the specific representation of the dystopia in eitherA Clockwork OrangeorThe Handmaid’s Tale, it would be informative to specify our footings. What precisely do we intend by dystopia and what is its history as a word and as a construct?

Its beginnings can be traced back to the 15th century political philosopher Thomas More and particularly his workUtopia( 1965 ) .Utopiadraws from Plato’sRepublicand depicts a incorporate and harmonious society that Fosters creativeness, allows for personal freedom and “welcome ( s ) foreign tourers with unfastened arms” ( More, 1965: 101 ) . It is easy to see that, in picturing a perfect society, Thomas More was strongly influenced by scriptural impressions of Eden and Paradise particularly as they were translated into societal remark by Saint Augustine in his workThe City of Godand by the Catholic bookman Erasmus ; both minds upon whom More had lectured early on in his life ( Surtz, 1957: 27 ) .

As Paul Turner ( 1965 ) suggests, there are conflicting readings refering the philosophical purposes of More’sUtopia, some see it as a serious remark on how thingscould be( for case see Karl Kautksy’s essay “Thomas More and His Utopia” ( 1888 ) ) and suggest that More anticipated the thoughts of Marx and communism, nevertheless others see it as a satirical onslaught on the impossible and absurd nature of certain Protestant impressions of the twenty-four hours ; for case the coronation of female priests and the shared ownership of land ; More was, after all non merely a Catholic sufferer but a affluent landholder.

Whatever the reading of the text, one concrete impression that arises out of it is the term Utopia itself as refering to a blissful and corporate society that promotes freedoms, felicity and creativeness.

Of class, the term dystopia can be seen as the antithesis to this and as such was foremost used by the political mind J.S. Mill in the House of Commons on 12ThursdayMarch 1868 to mock his opponents’ positions on the measure they were so debating:

“’It is, possibly, excessively complimentary to name them Utopians, they ought instead to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is normally called Utopian is something excessively good to be operable ; but what they appear to favor is excessively bad to be operable. ‘” [ 1 ]

This quotation mark concretises an of import point about the dystopia: that is must verge on the impossible, or as Mill states be “too bad to be practicable” . This is doubtless what gives dystopian plants like Orwell’s1984their sense of horror and scientific discipline fiction ; the dystopian universe is mostly one of disaffection, of totalitarian governments, of loss of personal freedom and creativeness and of fright and repression.

We surely see this in bothA Clockwork OrangeandThe Handmaid’s Tale; Alex in the former, for case, is a typically anomic figure of teenage angst and is made to come to order through the intercession of a brutal and detached province and Offred, in Atwood’s novel, is subjugated and exploited by those in power. Both plants are set in a universe that has either lost its significance or whose significance has been replaced by arbitrary tenet.A Clockwork Orange, for case, depicts a de-centred society where consumerism and philistinism has replaced humanity and inThe Handmaid’s Talea similar sense of dystopia arises out of the oppressive affects of the pseudo-religious political orientation that permeates the really cloth of the Republic of Gilead As we shall see, these two similar and yet subtly different histories of dystopia are reflected in the representation of the importance of linguistic communication and the function it plays in the formation of personal individuality.

A Clockwork Orange – A Psychological Dystopia.

From its really beginning,A Clockwork Orangeprovinces its authorization as being concerned with the importance linguistic communication plays in the creative activity of the ego and others. Alex’s first words disorientate the reader and this, in many ways is knowing:

“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim. Dim being truly dip, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar doing our rassoodocks what to make with the flushing a somersault dark iciness winter asshole though dry.” [ 2 ]

The nadsat slang that is employed here allows Burgess to accomplish a figure of purposes ; foremost, it places the narrative beyond the reader’s modern-day experience – we understand immediately that we are covering with a foreign scenario, one that is unusual and disorientating and, secondly, it alienates us from the Droogs, we as readers are placed outside of their group, unable to grok what they are stating and therefore to sympathize with them. This state of affairs is bit by bit altered throughout the book as we become more and more familiar with the linguistic communication and by extension, place more and more with Alex. This heightens the dramatic tenseness of the novel’s decision because, by its terminal, we are literally talking the same linguistic communication as the supporter, a fact that engenders an increased emotional fond regard and involvement over his destiny.

What though is the over all image of the dystopia inA Clockwork Orange? In his Introduction, Blake Morrison gives us a image of how Burgess conceived of his close future existence:

“Burgess had been struck by the development of java bars, dad music and teenage packs… For his novel, Burgess posited a close hereafter, the 1970s, in which adolescent force had become a big plenty societal job for the authorities to fall back to Pavlovian techniques of ‘negative reinforcement’” [ 3 ]

In line with this, much of the force and aggression in Part One ofA Clockwork Orangecomes non from the State but from Alex and his Droogs. Throughout the first subdivision they engage in a series of violent Acts of the Apostless that culminate in the decease of the “old ptitsa” ( Burgess, 2000: 115 ) and leads to Alex undergoing the Ludovico technique. The dystopian character of Part One of the novel, so, arises more out of the word picture of a de-centered society that is characterised by force, deficiency of significance and ingestion than an open autocratic State.

In the scene, for case, in which he visits Melodia, the music shop Alex bemoans the shallowness of modern-day civilization, comparing it unfavorably with his darling classical music:

“ ( The store ) has the gloopy name of MELODIA, but it was existent horrorshow mesto and skorry… I walked in and the merely other clients were two immature ptitas sucking off at ice-sticks ( and this, grade, was dead cold winter and kind of scuffling through the new pop-discs – Johnny Burnaway, Stash Kroh, The Mixers, Lay Quiet Awhile with Ed And Id Molotov, and all the remainder of that cal ) .” [ 4 ]

Alex’s force can be seen as a manner out of his bland consumer universe that features faceless dad groups whose merely intent is to sell records to pre-teenagers and tout none of the built-in significance of Beethoven or Mozart. Alex’s musical gustatory sensation is a mirror to his position as an person in a society that tries invariably to breed homogenization. There is a suggestion that the civilization portrayed in Burgess’ novel serves merely to extenuate and to repress the members of society that consume it.

Part Two of the fresh nevertheless depicts a more openly dystopian universe ; one in which the power of the State, through engineering, imposes its will on the person as Alex is forced to watch scenes of force and listen to classical music in an effort to change his behavior. The sense of panic and of weakness is heightened all the more because Alex is a victim of scientific discipline, a subject we by and large associate with medical specialty and promotion, he becomes little more than the topic of an experiment, a lab rat:

“The like heads of this Dr. Brodky and Dr. Branom and the others in white coats, and retrieve there was this devotchka twiddling with the boss and watching the metres, they must haven been more cally and foul than any prestoopnick in the Staja itself.” [ 5 ]

The tone of the fresh alterations in Part Two, as the force and aggression that emanated from Alex is returned to him through the power of the governments, the dystopian sense besides changes from one of a bland consumerist barren to one of State intercession and open psychological control.


This last point, of class, is besides reflected in the novel’s usage of linguistic communication ; nadsat is a slang and as such is used to sure up societal boundaries and transfuse a sense of exclusivity in its users ( Fiedler and Bless, 2001 ) . As Partridge ( 1933 ) inside informations, some of the earliest cases of slang day of the month back to the 16th century and the effort on the portion of condemnable packs to make a linguistic communication that allowed them to discourse without being overheard.

This is some of the same sense that we see inA Clockwork Orange, Alex and the Droogs’ usage of nadsat can be seen as a manner of non merely recognizing each other and excepting foreigners but besides of asseverating ownership over their ain ideas. In a universe that is progressively characterised as being without significance, Alex literally creates his ain by contriving and utilizing slang. His usage of linguistic communication becomes, like every portion of his life, a manner to asseverate his individualism in the face of the machinery of the State.

It is precisely this individualism that is at the bosom of the ‘Lodovico technique’ , as the State attempts to change Alex’s really ideas and behavior forms to do him conform to their impressions of the right citizen ; a point testified to by the words of Dr. Branom when he says:

“’You felt ill this afternoon…because you’re acquiring better. When we’re healthy we respond to the presence of the hateful with fright and sickness. You’re going healthy that’s all. You’ll be healthier still this clip tomorrow.”” [ 6 ]

In the dystopian universe ofA Clockwork Orangelangauge, in the signifier of slang, is used as a manner of urgently cleaving to the impression of individualism in the face of the homogenising forces of the State and at the book’s decision it is finally successful as Alex retains both his linguistic communication and his sense of Self.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Gender Dystopia

Margaret Atwood’s novelThe Handmaid’s Taleoffers us a similar and yet subtly different dystopian vision, one that is based ondirectphysical aggression and suppression. WhereasA Clockwork Orangedepicts a society and a State whose force and development is, at first covert and is so revealed, inThe Handmaid’s Talethe power of Gilead over the organic structures and heads of the adult females is obvious from the book’s really gap:

“We slept in what had one time been the secondary school. The floor was of stained wood, with chevrons of and circles painted on it, for the games that were once played at that place, the basketballs for the hoops cyberspaces were still in topographic point, though the cyberspaces were gone.” [ 7 ]

There is no covert State power here, none of the concealed docket ofA Clockwork Orange, this gap scene reminds us of the images of disfranchised and anomic refugees or concentration cantonment captives. The adult females have been stripped of all material worth, ready to be molded into what the patriarchal State desires. Womans are classified and characterised harmonizing to their comparative utility to the male dominated societal order, a point most clearly reflected in the coloring material of their apparels: red for the Handmaids, blue for the Wives, brown for the Aunts etc. The desires of the patriarchate are literally inscribed on the organic structures of the adult females in the signifier of their garb and, through the usage of names ( Offred, Ofglen etc. ) their position non merely as objects but as ownerships is invariably asserted.

Womans in are Gilead non merely suppressed and exploited, they are dehumanised and de-individuated. In chapter 20 seven, for case Offred offers us a description of the local town that has had all mention to muliebrity removed:

“We turn out dorsums to the Wall, caput left. Here there are several empty shopfronts, their glass Windowss scrawled with soap. I try to retrieve what was sold in them, one time. Cosmetics? Jewelery? Most of the shops transporting things for work forces are still unfastened ; its merely the 1s covering in what they call amour propres that have been shut down.” [ 8 ]

In Gilead, female gender is deemed as either unsafe or worthless, it needs to be either restricted or expunged. Handmaids are used strictly as vass for kids, they are robbed of their gender, non even being allowed to utilize soap or cosmetics.

Again, as Nancy Walker ( 1990 ) points out, control in Gilead is closely linked to linguistic communication and its utilizations:

“InThe Handmaid ‘s Talemerely the opinion category have entree to books, scriptural injunctions are distorted, and even Scrabble is a cloak-and-dagger activity.” [ 9 ]

The linguistic communication that Atwood utilises for her novel is a unusual mixture of antediluvian Biblical mention and modern-day concatenation, as we have already seen, the naming of the Handmaids reflect their position as ownerships through the evocation of “of Fred” or “of Glen” but there are deeper significances: Gilead, for case is found in the Old Testament ( Jeremiah 46: 11 ) , the frocks are called ‘habits’ ( Atwood, 1996: 34 ) and the citizens of Gilead greet each other by stating “Praise be” ( Atwood, 1996: 29 ) , all are clearly mentions to the alteration of linguistic communication to reflect spiritual indoctrination.

The Handmaid’s Tale, as David Sisk ( 1997 ) tells us concerns itself, to a really big extent, with the grade that control over a society’s linguistic communication besides means control over the heads of those within it. It is no accident that Offred’s minute of minor rebellion, in the signifier of the Scrabble game with the Commander, is twinned with an enraptured usage of words, as if their really sound signals some exciting glance of release:

“We drama two games. Larynx, I spell. Valance. Quince. Zygote. I hold the calendered counters with their smooth borders, finger the letters. The feeling is juicy. This is freedom, an eyeblink of it. Limp. I spell. Gorge. What a luxury” [ 10 ]

Here we see some of the lingual sense ofA Clockwork Orange, like Alex, Offred finds a sense of freedom in the usage of words that are outside of the proscribed, regulated linguistic communication. However, whereas, in Burgess’ novel the semantic change of linguistic communication comes from the user ( Alex’s slang ) inThe Handmaid’s Taleit comes from the oppressive power of the State: Gilead restricts linguistic communication and so excessively the ideas and responses of those that use it.


As we have seen, the word picture of dystopian societies and the representation of linguistic communication inA Clockwork OrangeandThe Handmaid’s Taleare linked and yet perceptibly different. Ultimately both concern themselves with the extent that control over linguistic communication and look equates to command of lives and fates ; Alex is all the stronger for asseverating his control via nadsat and Offred is all the weaker for releasing hers to the linguistic communication of the Republic of Gilead.

Both novels characteristic State force of a sort, Burgess’ through Capitalist brainwashing and behavior alteration and Atwood’s through an open patriarchal subjection of adult females ; both of these rather clearly have a modern-day relevancy, the former to theories of psychological intercession prevalent in the sixtiess and 70s ( see for case Alan Kazdin’s bookBehaviour Modification in Applied Settings( 1975 ) ) and the latter to feminist writers such as Andrea Dworkin and Laura Mulvey’s averments on the jussive mood for censoring in arguments refering erotica and the objectification of adult females in the modern media.

In an progressively diverse and technologically based society, nevertheless, the existent relevancy of both of these plants lies in their word picture of the power of linguistic communication to both liberate and subjugate. Each suggests that there is a direct correlativity between the ownership of linguistic communication and the flexing of power, a point made by Robin Tolmach Lakoff in his surveyTalking Power: The Politicss of Language in Our Lifes:

“Language is powerful ; linguistic communication is power. Language is a change-creating force and therefore to be feared and used, if at all, with great attention, non unlike fire.” ( Tolmach Lakoff, 1990: 13 )


Atwood, M ( 1996 ) ,The Handmaid’s Tale, London: Vintage. ( ISBN 0099740915 )

Burgess, A ( 2000 ) ,A Clockwork Orange, London: Penguin. ( ISBN 0141182601 )

Fiedler, K and Bless, H ( 2001 ) , “Social Cognition” , published in Hewstone, M and Stroebe, W ( explosive detection systems ) ,Introduction to Social Psychology, London: Blackwell, pp.115-150, ( ISBN063120437 )

Holy Bible( 1991 ) , Oxford: Oxford University Press. ( ISBN: 0195283708 )

Kautksy, K ( 1888 ) , “Thomas More and his Utopia” , available online at hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 14ThursdayDec 2005 ]

Kazdin, A ( 1975 ) ,Behaviour Modification in Applied Settings, London: Dorsey Press, ( ISBN 025601681 )

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Morrison, B ( 2000 ) ,Introduction, published Burgess, A,A Clockwork Orange, London: Penguin, ( ISBN 0141182601 )

Partridge, E. ( 1933 ) ,Slang: Today and Yesterday, London: Stephen Austin and Sons

Sisk, D ( 1997 ) ,Transformations of Language in Modern Dystopias, London: Greenwood Press ( ISBN: 0313304114 )

Sutz, E ( 1957 ) ,The Praise of Wisdom: A Commentary on the Religious and Moral Problems and Background of St Thomas More’s Utopia, Oxford: Oxford University Press ( ISBN: B0000CJXIS )

Tolmach Lakoff, R ( 1990 ) ,Talking Power: The Politicss of Language, London: Basic Books, ( ISBN: 0465083595 )

Walker, N ( 1990 ) ,Feminist Options: Irony and Fantasy in the Contemporary Novel by Women, Mississippi: University of Mississippi ( ISBN: 0878054421 )


hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 14ThursdayDecember 2005 ]

hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 14ThursdayDecember 2005 ]


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