In her 2007 essay “Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency),” Lauren Berlant asserts that “in the scene of slow death, a condition of being worn out by the activity of reproducing life, agency can be an activity of maintenance” (759). This concept emphasizes the difficulty of maintaining one’s agency while experiencing chronic exhaustion, or what can be referred to as the “wearied state.” Utilizing Berlant’s theoretical framework, this thesis investigates the concept of weariness in two dystopic texts: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003). The respective protagonists of The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, Offred and Oryx, each struggle to maintain their agency in the dystopic societies that work to oppress them. Offred, by utilizing wordplay, locates a way to successfully navigate her weariness while simultaneously subverting these who hold power over her. Oryx, oppositely, fails to recognize the sexual power dynamics of her position as a sex slave. Oryx fails to locate her agency, which causes her to normalize her sexually traumatic past. Overall, this thesis argues that weariness need not be final if one makes no attempt to normalize traumatic experiences, remains privy to oppressive ideologies, and retains the ability to cope.
Mathes, Carmen Faye
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Pryor, Taylor J., "This Woman's Work: Corrosive Power Structures, Gendered Labor and Weariness in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake" (2020). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 747.