Chapter 35-39 (HT)



Concept: Atwood's use of naming enhances the dystopian atmosphere of her novel by showing her values of Gilead Society.

1 of 16

Use of capitalisation

Atwood uses capitalisation to confer significance to words that we may feel are commonplace. The use of these words, without explanation intially, further the reader's confusion and thus builds up an image of a society that is somewhat like ours, but altered in ways that are slowly revealed to us.


  • Religious purpose
  • Given the role of being the housewives
  • Morality 


  • A member of family
  • Represents a close knit society
2 of 16

Use of capitalisation


  • They twist the bible to suit their own needs


  • Protection
  • Purity
  • Refers to religion
  • Gods warriors and messengers.
  • Shows strength


  • Biblical connotations and historical connotations
  • Oppression
3 of 16

Use of capitalisation


  • Lesser in the society
  • Keep their positions in society
  • Put them into categories based upon their societal worth as a mother
  • Take on all the different jobs, shows that there are powerless, and they are not deemed or seen as important within society. 


  • Powerful men at the top of society
  • They have access to most things and they have more freedom than any other group within society.  


  • Women who don't fit into society.
  • They have to do what they are told by society.
4 of 16

Use of capitalisation


  • They are the spies within society
  • They are what look down into society
  • Threat
  • Constantly being watched  


  • Someone who makes sure you're okay
  • They keep everything in order within society
  • Very protective
  • Positive connotations
5 of 16

Use of capitalisation for events

  • Atwood refers to different events and ceremonies within the novel that are given greater significance by society of Gilead through their use of capitalisation

What do these events involve? Why do you think that Atwood chose these names?

  • The Ceremony
    • Something that they have to do
    • Biblical connotations
    • Associated with religion
    • Not specific, doesn't include all of the groups within society
    • Ritualistic (bible reading etc.)
    • Able to detach from real life events
6 of 16

Use of capitalisation for events

  • Prayvaganza
    • More serious meaning
    • Public ceremonies segregated by gender
    • Strict thing within society, forced activity
    • Not particularly fun
  • Birth Day/ the Birth
    • Medical, doesn't mention the celebration
    • Makes it sound more functional
    • It happens over and over again (repetitive)
7 of 16

Use of capitalisation for events

  • Salvaging
    • Public executions, segregated by gender
    • Able to beat someone up, tear them apart.
    • Reinforcing the rules within society.
    • Gives them an opportunity for release
8 of 16

Use of capitalisation for items

All Flesh

  • Enforces gender
  • Could be any flesh that you get (human etc.)

Soul Scrolls

  • Fate that can arise from this
  • Machines that write out prayers. They are automated, so people can call a number and punch in the number of a prayer and their comp account number, and purchase prayers that will be written out by the machines.
  • Favour with God
  • Clergy is able to get extra money or funds from this
9 of 16

Use of capitlisation of items

Milk and Honey

  • Simple
  • Something you can get from animals but also you can get from women
  • Fertility


  • In the new society, they abolished
  • To buy for pleasure, to buy for sex
  • Massive selection of things, seen as socially acceptable but now it has been removed
  • Trying to remove sex being for the pleasure
10 of 16

Use of capitalisation for places

The Wall

  • Is where they hang people who have been executed through the regime
  • Stops the handmaids from getting out
  • Very protective
  • Barrier for people but can also restrict people
  • Potential for death and killing

The Library (with death and Victory)

  • Some hope
  • Only options are victory and death
  • Place to gather knowledge and learn something new
11 of 16

Jezebels section

  • Moira
    • Someone that Offred looks up to
    • Someone who helps Offred not break the rules
    • Example of the plot
    • Reveals something about society that Offred doesn't
    • Very honest and trustworthy
  • Offred and the commander?
    • "the commander does the talking for me" "He doesn't say much about me, he doesn't need to"
      • Shows how the Commander in this situation is the powerful one within the society and that he isn't giving Offred a say, as women are told not to openly speak as this is against the regimes rules.
12 of 16

Jezebels section + significance

  • Gilead Society?
    • They can't stop anything from happening, it is human nature.
    • Judge others for it, but it makes it okay for the men to do the same thing.
    • Exposes society as it being all about power

Significance is that it splits their beliefs, ideas of going against the regime and organisation

13 of 16

Use of capitalisation- Banners and Placards

Atwood uses all capital letters for the words that appear on banners and placards. 

Chapter 20:

    • During the night they may be afraid of getting caught if they are walking the streets
    • They can't walk around freely
    • Talking about abortion
    • Women should have control over their fertility and reproductive system.
14 of 16

Significance of Atwoods choice of Scrabble words

What significance does Atwood's choice of Scrabble words have?

  • Larynx
    • a hollow, tubular structure connected to the top of the windpipe (trachea); air passes through the larynx on its way to the lungs
    • Significance: to give Offred a voice, so that she can express her opinion
  • Valance
    • a length of decorative drapery attached to the canopy or frame of a bed in order to screen the structure or the space beneath it.
    • Significance: To hide anything that other people don't know about
    • Significance: Sex
  • Quince
    • Fruit which is pear shaped
    • Significance: fertility, womb, garden of Eden (temptation)
15 of 16

Significance of Atwoods choice of Scrabble words

  • Zygote
    • is the result of the union of an ovum (egg cell) and a sperm cell.
    • Significance: always thinking about babies and that god is always giving
  • Limp
    • Significance: during the ceremony, this is how she feels and it is ironic as she is with the commander
    • Erection
  • Gorge
    • Throat
    • a narrow valley between hills or mountains, typically with steep rocky walls and a stream running through it
  • Zilch
    • Nothing
    • Significance: Offred feels nothing, she is empty, she has no identity
16 of 16


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all The Handmaids tale resources »