Power and Metaphoric Discourse in The Handmaid’s Tale

Document Type : Research Papers/Extracts from dissertations


Helwan University


This study proposes an analysis of the social and cognitive aspects of power as expressed and reproduced in the metaphoric discourse of Atwood’s dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale. The purpose of this study is to show how metaphoric discourse produces power through constructing ideological knowledge. According to this research, metaphoric discourse gives meaning to things and creates representations of reality. Representations shape our cognition of the world and construct our knowledge. Knowledge produced engenders some forms of power such as ideological power. This article relies on cognitive linguistics to unveil how metaphoric structures shape knowledge. It draws on Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) Conceptual Metaphor Theory which maintains that our knowledge of the world is basically a matter of metaphor. In order not to mechanically and unconsciously submit to stealthy forms of power, this research aims at creating awareness of how systems of power make use of metaphoric discourse to control people, influence their knowledge and in Althusserian terms, produce ideological subjects who reproduce the social order. The findings of this study show that structural, ontological and orientational metaphors draw correspondences between different domains of knowledge to sustain specific ideological positions, evoke emotional effects, shape identities and responses, generate social consequences and establish a reconceptualization of reality.


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