The Handmaids Tale

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Vanessa Gomes Ms. Sigareva ENG 4U1 15 July 2014 A Hypothesis for the Future In her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood crafts the society of Gilead, a dystopian region subject to the rule of a puritan cult. Offred, the protagonist of the tale, is no longer a human. In the literal sense, yes, but in every other aspect of the word, she has lost her humanity. During an interview done following the publishing of this novel, Atwood describes the purpose of it as “[taking] these beliefs to their logical ends and [seeing] what happens”, referring to common stereotypes associated with women and their oppression. With the supposed dehumanization of women in the society before Gilead, through pornography, provocative clothing worn by women, and the destruction of family values through promiscuity, this Christian theocracy inserts itself, and takes control, setting women back decades in their fight for equity. Using symbolism, irony, and the establishment of pathos, Atwood creates an environment and establishes a setting that allows the reader to understand the story of a Handmaid living within the limitations of the patriarchal theocracy of Gilead. The symbolism of red, the Eye’s of the society, and the flowers that in some way or another surround Offred, are devised to represent the country that the United States has become, the one that Offred must now call home. The recurring symbol of the colour red exemplifies “the social status of these women” (Roland 3), with reference to the handmaids. A symbol of love and passion in the Western world, the colour is also a representation of anger and fuming emotions (Roland 5). The handmaid’s uniforms, from dress to shoes to gloves, are red, symbolically chosen to represent the roles of these women. Offred though, attaches a different meaning to it, stating, “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of

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