Compare the ways in which Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy portray Women in regards to sex...

Though Carol Ann Duffy and Margaret Atwood both explore the subject of women and sex, they do so quite differently. Atwood indicates a n enforced loss of sexual identity throughout The Handmaids Tale, where she portrays women in society as little more than reproductive vessels that live in a world where, arousal and orgasms are no longer thought necessary. On the other hand, Carol Ann Duffy, whose use of strong imagery, expletives and taboo lexis to shock the reader, often portray s women as strong, authoritative, and equals in love and passion. There are some notable exceptions, for example Stuffed . When Offred visits the doctor, we are subjected to Gilead s essential definition of women, two legged wombs . Women are portrayed as objects- It intersects me so that the doctor will never see my face. He deals with a torso only, as reproductive vessels, there, only to pro-create and satisfy man, there are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that s the law. The conscious choice to replace the expected pronoun, my with a when referring to Offred s torso, removes her identity and objectifies her. The declarative, He deals with a torso only is devoid of emotion, giving the impression that Offred has succumbed to her oppressor s will, and has lost all of her own will to fight, though not the will to live. This can be seen when the doctor offers Offred, his services he offer s her an escape, his sperm, but it is not without its risks. Offred hesitates longing the chance of a reprieve, but fearful of the consequences , should the indiscretion be discovered, or the doctor turn out to be an eye . The doctor s visit shows a woman, Offred, trapped in an unj ust system of fear and pressure. Atwood portrays women as weak and easily manipulated by the power of men, I ve helped others. Lots of women do it. The doctor, man, is using his position of trust and power to slee p with women, under the pretence that he is offering his services in order to grant her a child before her time runs out, so that she will be permitted to live. One can take two views on this, either Atwood has painted this doctor in a light that shows m an abusing his power, dominating women, to get what he wants, or she intends to use him, in order to show the internal conflict Offred suffers, the doctor a potential life -line. Nevertheless in this visit Atwood shows mans power, power over women, power in society, and power to feel safe; safe enough to say a forbidden word , safe enough to remove his glove, slide his hand up and between her legs. Duffy portrays women with a more empowered style, Duffy shows the empowerment of women, the drive, sexual desire and control. Women are free to express their emotions, this is a theme clearly present throughout Adultery, where the guilt of the adulterer is expressed throughout, as well as excitement, animosity and sexual longing. I feel very strongly, that the adulterer is female, the personal understanding and anxiety expressed throughout the poem, suggests this is about a woman. Men are traditionally, less prepared to share their emotions, or at least not in such explicit detail. The adulterer freely

legitimised in the attempt to force reproduction. her entire existence. it is not used to shock or insult. this word no longer has any other meaning to it. self-gratification. only making this chapter more repulsive and unbearable. hands do many things are too much for the adulterer to give up. The excitement of the affair. and can be seen often when Offred refers to herself as one . When Atwood describes the ritual that takes place betwe en the Commander and Offred. Guilt. daring the reader to assume a sexual link. similar to that of Offred when mulling over the doctor s offer. The use of ambiguous comments and effective sexual imagery helps Duffy to portray women as strong determined beings. Atwood understands that Offred s world. for instance. hard. I lie on my back. no longer relates to anything her readers have experi enced. in Sleeping . b ut used merely as an appropriate verb to describe the Commanders actions. even if it causes someone else pain. declarative sentences. a state sanctioned rape. kinky sex. The use of declarative sentences here makes the reader uncomfortable. an effect I m sure was Atwood s desired result. I found this an interesting use of the word. so I dream more fiercely. their ability to conceive. they do not have equal rights. relying on the use of the personal pronoun in order to relate to her readers. though the emotion is ultimately different. and merely appreciates the female role in the preservation of their country. yes I feel it. who are very aware of their own sex appeal and the consequences their conquests have on others. fully clothed except for the healthy white cotton under drawers. could sugges t prostitution or the idea of sordid. We are presented with a woman who knows what she wants. That this is for real . is to shock and entertain . a country formed and governed by male-chauvinist. a direct contrast with Atwood s Offred . ideologically driven men. particularly when compared with Duffy. This highly oppressive state ignores the female identity. This deliberate detachment forces the reader to try and identify with Offred. Chapter sixteen introduces the reader to The Ceremony . However rather than discuss plans to end the affair . dream till it hurts. demanding. or we when discussing women as an entity. in that the voice of any of the three poems seems full of its own self -importance. This deliberate d etachment occurs throughout the chapter and to a degree the rest of the n ovel. Duffy is successfully building an atmosphere which is sexually charged and filled with riddles and ambiguous comments. for causing the wedding cake to crumble . women are not individuals. green tint. or can really comprehend. Chapter sixteen is further evidence that in the Republic of Gilead. all in the need for their own quick. and will do anything to get it. rather than using the singular first person pronoun I . Immediately we are made to feel uncomfortable. where the handshake crackles could refer to a kind of electrical excitement. the building of sexual intrigue. I found Duffy s poems to be more self-absorbed. the repetition of the verb fucking . This dominance and selfawareness creates a narcissistic tone that contrasts greatly with that of Atwood s Offred. through Atwood s use of descriptive yet still. she intends to use the word as an . and to the point of numbness. You re in now. A sick. and to create a strong dominating personality that drives the poems direction.discusses her guilt in the first stanza at committing the affair. theocratical. again is impersonal. whose primary use of such lexis. Money tucked into palm . the second stanza leads to internal conflict. it is often the only thing that keeps women alive. because they denote a level of detachment from Offred. as Offred informs here and at her doctor s visit.

A lover and I in a room of steam and relying on subtle sexual images. women who are aware of their own sexu al power. The voice of the poem is akin to that of a woma n talking to her lover. silvery word . Not long ago so far. Fuck. for she still relies on humour as a defence mechanism. She allows them to express themselves through the use of strong. humorous. Rubbed itself out. thirsty. What. The subtle use of sibilance throughout the poem Steam . steam . In Adultery for example. inviting them to review their own sexual encounters. and these are empower ed women. personifying the steam as. Duffy allows women to express themselves through the use of strong emotive lexis. stark imagery. void of emotion. There s something hilarious about this . and are effective at conveying the strong feelings and strong wills of these women. a familiarity and closeness Atwood refrains from allowing Offred to feel. Sleeping . the sexual atmosphere Duffy creates in. Fuck. so empty and at a loss of her own identity that she finds the horrendous ceremony. suggests possession and continues to reinforce the intimacy of the poem. such as fuck . tissue paper and creating a misty sensual atmosphere and setting for the rest of the poem. Whereas Duffy portrays strong-minded women. A nude pose. with a smoky cloth . and bastard . and of their emotions. This different application of the word fuck shows a contrast in the minds of the women portrayed by both Atwood and Duffy . so empty she is numb. In soft pencil behind tissue paper appeared. which is evident through the repetition of the personal pronoun I .expletive. As the dystopian novel continues. Your breath flares into fervent words that explode in my head . you. Unlike Atwood s detached description of Offred s sexual encounter The Ceremony . particularly . And what s a nice girl like me doing in a spot like this . wet. it suggests a varied environment and a difference in priorities. the women is clearly comfortable with herself and sexually charged. the monthly rape. attributes to the inventive appliance of pathetic fallacy. she produces a woman who cannot even express herself through her language. to rely on her readers understanding of such taboo lexis . attributes that are clearly evident upon reading. sometimes choosing instead to use ambiguous sentences. Your breath flares into fervent words which explode in my head. Your mouth is hot fruit. The subtlety in Steam suggests a firm grasp of identity. for example in the poem Sleeping . This along with the repetition o f the second personal pronoun you and your . Didn t you. as these taboo words hold strong meaning. Atwood s portrayal of Offred changes. further separating the differences and experiences held by th e women portrayed by both Atwood and Duffy. Duffy isn t always as up-front and stark about sex as the she is in both Sleeping and Adultery .a sly. not entirely. No. Atwood conveys a woman who is empty. but as a thought. a seductive tone that is enhanced through the use of the repetition of the letter T . Fuck is not used as a verb. They are empowering words. hooks the reader. You. slow. but we begin to see Offred develop a more personal voice. to create an effective atmosphere and voice. strange. Fuck . One could argue that there is also a dominant under-current to the tonality of the poem. to relate and beco me seduced by her vivid imagery. night-fruit I taste with my opening mouth .

living with the everyday tedium of her life in Gilead. an invisible woman . Offred has been starved of affection for so long. In this chapter we see a woman who has needs. Offred considered her body as an instrument of her desires. reproductive control . Duffy shows women to be empowered. worrying about petty anxieties. Both writers use sex very differently in order to portray the true emotions of women. Nevertheless. Atwood creates a character who is so tightly restricted and oppressed that she has lost her identity. and grasps at the prospect of selfgratification. because she is made to sleep with him against her will. she is just a mound of flesh surrounding a womb that must be filled in order to make her useful. dominant. and consequently achieves an orgasm. desires. By Samantha Clark Word Count 2. or merely a means to gratification. whether it s numbness and indifference. flirting. Women are shown to be capable of causing great pain. there only to help the state achieve their main goal. o f using sex as a means to exert power. it isn t what I mean . having and acting upon desir es and perhaps most shockingly of all. as she sees this as an act of betrayal toward Luke . Before Gilead.303 . complacent and weak. Women are treated as subhuman in the Republic of Gilead . as she no longer seems as detached from her surroundings and herself. she admits to wanting to be without shame . This directly contrasts Duffy s approach to women and sex. There wasn t any thunder though. because ultimately it feels good. or passion and excitement. Unlike The Ceremony . her partner from the time before . and very much in control of their own sexual identity. they relate more to how everyday women think. who despite the pain she is inflicting as a result of her affair carries on with it. Offred feels she can respond to Nick. both Carol Ann Duffy and Margaret Atwood have produced some tantalising reads. now. which I am ashamed of making and as a result. To cover up the sounds. In this chapter Atwood creates a more three dimensional character. wants. This is perhaps the one chapter where any similarities can be drawn between Atwood and Duffy s individual portrayal of women and sex. Atwood juxtaposes Offred s sexual encounters with the Commander and with Nick to highlight the difference between forced sex and sex by cho ice. in some cases lack of. merely tools in man s sordid quest for dominance and power and submissive in sex.toward the end of chapter forty. and treated as two legged wombs . she has had no suitable outlet for her emotions and desires. feels guilty. in order to obtain what they want. The legal subjugation of women allows Gilead to deprive women of their individuality in order to make them docile carriers of the next generation. They are reduced to their fertility. I added that in. Much like the woman in Adultery. and Atwood portrays them as such. until now. This is awkward and clumsy. Atwood presents women to be passive. Here she is excited. where Offred cannot give the Commander passion. her internal discussions are more colloquial. A woman who puts aside her inhibitions . her personality and has become that which the state wishes.

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