Symbolism In The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel by Margaret Atwood that was first published in 1985. The novel is set in a future totalitarian society in the United States. The government has been taken over by a religious group and renamed the Republic of Gilead. The new government has instituted a series of laws that have drastically changed the lives of women.

The most significant change is the creation of the handmaids. The handmaids are women who are assigned to wealthy families to bear children for them. The novel is narrated by Offred, a handmaid assigned to the household of Commander Fred Waterford and his wife Serena Joy.

One of the most important aspects of The Handmaid’s Tale is its use of symbolism. Margaret Atwood has said that the novel is “not really about the future. It’s about right now.” The symbols in the novel are used to represent the current state of affairs in the United States.

The most obvious symbol is the handmaids themselves. The red dresses and white bonnets that they wear are meant to resemble costumes from The Scarlet Letter. The handmaids are a symbol of oppression and control. The other major symbol in the novel is the Eyes of God. The Eyes of God are a group of people who are charged with monitoring the activities of the citizens of Gilead. They are a symbol of surveillance and oppression.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful allegory for the state of women’s rights in the United States. The symbols in the novel are used to represent the current state of affairs in the United States. The handmaids represent the oppression of women, and the Eyes of God represent the surveillance and control of the government. The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary tale that reminds us of the importance of fighting for our rights.

“You’ll find it’s connected to the rest of the world if you pull a thread here. ” This is from Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil, which conveys the deeper significance of what appears on the surface. It illustrates how little things are powerful symbols for bigger and more complicated concepts.

In her work The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood employs symbolism to convey the subjects of individuality and identity, feminism, and the power of language. There is no sense of individual identity for women in Gilead. On the basis of financial wealth and fertility, all ladies are assigned to social classes and must wear clothing corresponding to their group’s color-coded wardrobe.

The only sense of individuality a woman has is in the names they are given. The narrator, Offred, is named after her Commander’s deceased first wife. The use of symbolism in The Handmaid’s Tale helps to explore these themes and provide readers with a more in-depth understanding of life in Gilead.

One symbol that is used throughout the novel is mirrors. When Offred first arrives in Gilead she is taken to her room and sees a mirror for the first time in years. In her former life she would have looked at herself and seen an individual with her own thoughts and feelings. Now, she finds herself unable to look at herself for more than a few seconds because all she sees is a reflection of the person that Gilead wants her to be. The mirror is a symbol of the way that Gilead has robbed women of their individuality and replaced it with a manufactured persona.

Another example of symbolism in The Handmaid’s Tale is the use of names. In Gilead, birth names have been replaced with biblical names that reflect the new social order. For example, Offred’s friend Moira is named after a character from the Book of Ruth who was willing to risk everything to help her mother-in-law.

This shows that even though these women are living in a totalitarian state, they still have the power to resist and defy the regime. The names are also a reminder that these women are more than just their social class or role in society. They are individuals with a history and a story that is unique to them.

The Handmaid’s Tale is full of symbolism that helps to explore the themes of individuality, feminism, and the power of language. By understanding the symbolism in the novel, readers are able to gain a deeper understanding of life in Gilead and the challenges faced by women living under a totalitarian regime.

The Wives’ dresses, as suggested by Charles A. Riley in Color Codes, might represent their high class position in Gilead’s religious society because “blue is frequently used to depict heavenly connections” (Riley 298). The crimson of the Handmaids,’ which Offred describes as “the colour of blood, which defines us,’ symbolizes their fecundity.

Blood is usually associated with life or sacrifice, and the Handmaids are both bringing new life into the language and being referred to as a “transitional generation” (138). Lydia also refers to the Handmaids as part of a “transitional generation,” knowing that they will make severe sacrifices (138).

The green of the Marthas’ dresses could represent their earthiness, as green is often associated with nature, while the brown of the Econowives’ dresses may symbolize their lower class status. The white of the uniforms worn by all in Gilead may represent cleanliness and purity.

The Eyes of God are also a recurring symbol throughout The Handmaid’s Tale. The Eyes first appear when Offred sees them in her bedroom mirror soon after she arrives in Gilead (Atwood 5) and they continue to be a presence in her life, appearing both overtly and covertly. The Eye is a symbol of surveillance and control and represents the oppressive government of Gilead. It is interesting that while the Eyes are a symbol of oppression, they are also a source of protection for Offred as they are the only ones who know her true identity and she can trust them to keep her safe.

The Handmaid’s Tale is full of symbols that help to further the story and create an eerie, disturbing feeling. Margaret Atwood has said that “Symbols are like guideposts or signposts. They show you the way” (qtd. in Brown). The use of symbolism in The Handmaid’s Tale helps to show the reader the way through this dark and oppressive world.

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