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The handmaid's tale: Recurring symbolism of color

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karen jassiel

on 7 November 2013

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Transcript of The handmaid's tale: Recurring symbolism of color

The handmaid's tale: Recurring symbolism of color
In 'the Handmaids Tale' written by Margaret Atwood in 1985, color symbolism is extremely important.Colour symbolisym represent abstract ideas or concepts that help us to understand the book better.
Margaret Atwood has included a lot of color symbolism
in this novel,from the clothes the handmaids wear,
to the color of the flowers in Serena's joy garden.

Red can symbolize many things:
In the Handmaids tale:
strong emotions such as,passion, excitement, danger and agression
it can also be linked with blood,love and infatuation .
it also represents life and vitality
red is also seen as a sensual color,and its associated to human urges and impulses
The Handmaids Outfits:
The outfits the handmaids are forced to wear are unflattering red dresses that cover all of their body.
The red costumes that the handmaids wear is an obvious reference to the female reproductive system.

It symbolizes fertility,handmaids main asset ,the red color suggests the blood of the menstrual cycle and childbirth.
"everything except the wings around my face is red: The colour of blood which define us"

the red colour also represents (as seen previously) passion,eventhough the handmaids are not supossed to be passionate. But Offred ends feeling passion towards Nick.
The red costumes are also linked to the adulturess "A" In the "scarlet letter" by Nathaniel Howthorne, where a woman that has been found guilty of adultery is forced to wear a scarlet "A".
handmaids are forced to have sexual relations with their commanders who are married men,therefore they are comitting an act of adultery.
therefore the red also symbolizes the sinfulness of the handmaids poition in Gilead.
serena's joy garden/tulips
in Serenas joy garden:
Blue can symbolize
peace, calm,stability,security,loyalty,coldness and depression
it is also liked with water
blue is also the colour of the virgin mary,and usually indicates femininity,life and purity,just as water does.
in the handmaids tale:
the clothing the wives wear.
the outfits that the wives wear are more flaterring and fitted than those worn by the handmaids. These outfits are blue,which is extremly cotradicting and sarcastic/ironic, since blue is the colour of the virgin mary wich represents fertility and pureness,qualities the wives do not posses.

blue also is a royal color,symbolizing the high status of the wives. But it is also seen as a cold color,which respresent the attitudes of the wives towards the handmaids.

black can symbolize:
red normally strands for sex and sexual pleasure:

this is is quite ironic since the handmaids are completely forced to have sex with their commanders and there is abslolutely no sexual pleaseure in it for any of the participants of the ceremony.
however red can also symbolize death and violence.

In this case, red could symbolize the agression and violence that the Handmaids are feeling towards their bodies.And the dominance of the male prospect in the ceremonies.
in the ceremony
predominant color
the most recurring flowers are the red tulips.

Red tulips normally symbolize perfect love

in the handmaids tale the tulips are parallels to the Handmaids, they both are covered in red and both are fertile.
In Flowers
black is seen as the color if evil and sins
it is also the colour of elegance, hence the expression black-tie eveing
black can also symbolize power,anger,mytery,fear,formality,unhapiness.
black is also the colour of the unknown.It can also represent bad luck or misfortune.
in the handmaids tale

in the handmaids tale the commanders mostly wear elegant, black suits
these black suits represent the fear and the authority .It also represents the high position of the commanders in the regime of Gilead,since black represents elegance and high status. It can also represent the evilness of the commanders.

other item of clothing that is also black is the dress that the commander gives to offred.
green can symbolize:
green can represents nature, youth,envy,good luck
green is normally associated with the envioment
green is also the color that represnts jelousy
it can often symbolize money,or wealth.
it is the universal colour for ecology
green can also symbolize good lick and good health
in the handmiads tale
in clothes:
the marthas wear dull green dresses. The green dresse can symbolize the jealousy the marhas feel towards the handmaids, because the handmaids are able tp bare children and they are not.

since green aldo symbolizes natures, the dull green cloured dresses the marthas wear,cold symbolize dying nature and the dead fertility of the marthas and ho the can ressemble dying flowers.
white can symbolize
white is the color that symbolizes things that are pure and sacred
white can also represent simplicity
it is often associted with innocence,honesty and cleanness.
It is also seen as the worldwide color for peace,hence the white dove
In the handmaids tale
In clothes:

the handmaids wear white wings that cover the sides of their faces.These white wings preventin the from being seen and from seeing.To a certain extent we could say that these white wings help them to stay pure.

In the prayvaganza, girls also wear whote to symbolize how pure they are and also how sacred they are for being fertile.
i think that Offreds name can represent many things, one of those being the way that their freedom and personality is taken away from them, It can be read as 'of fred' meaning that they now belong to their commander.
But if we go into more depth i think that it could e also read or intepreted as 'of red' meaning that they now belong to the colour red, this meaning that they belong to the symbolism of red of Gilead,which is to be fertile .
"the tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem as if hey have been cut and are begining to heal"
that quotes symbolizes how the handmaids have been stripped down from their power and have also been deprived of money, reading material or education. But eventhough they have been deprived from all of these things they will eventually "begin to heal"
brown can symbolize
brown represents ideas of:
earth, home ,comfort
endurance, simplicity and comfort.
it can slo represent dependabiltu,
it is normally seen as a dull color
the color symbolism in serenas joy garden
In Offreds room there is a painting made with watercoulrs.This painting is of blue irises.
"On the wall above the chair,a picture,framed but with no glass:a print of flowers,blue irises,watercolour"
Blue irises can symbolize faith and hope. They can also represent cherised friendship,promise in love and valor.
the reader can realte the ymbolism of the Blue irirs to the cherised frienship that Offred finds in Ofglen. And how Offred should continue to stay stron and have faith and hope that she will one day get out of gilead
in the handmiads tale
In the handmaids tale the ants wear Brown
these brown clothes the aunts wear are
supposed reprsent the comfort and guidance that the Aunts should provide for
the handmaids. and how they are supposed
to be reliable.

Brwon is a neutralized red
this means that the aunts try to neautralize/indoctrinate the hanmaids in order to make them follow Gilead rules.
the black dress that the commander gives to Offred also symbolizes how sinful it would be for a handmaid to wear that types of clothes.the blakc dress also it represents mystery. because for Offred and for the reader it is a mystery how the commander got the dress,when all of these clothing were supposed to be burned or should not be owned by anyone anymore.
White Lily
white lilies represents chastity and virtue
they also represent sympathism
they also symbolize humilyty and devotion
they are the symbol of a mothers undying love
they embody rmance and prosperirty
and reprsent good fortune anda happy marrige
Bleeding hearts
Pink is seen as the color that reprsents romance
these flowers represent undying love and they are also a symbol of jesus and mary,united in redemptive and co-redemptive sacrife.
Red Tulips
red tulips are most often associted with love.
they are also symbols of determination and resrection
they also represent perfect loev
blue lilies
Blue lilies can often symbolize:
faithfulness and loyalty
confidence and trust
intelligence and unity
thay also represent calm and beauty
there are many flowers in serenas joy garden, but these are the most impostants and the ones we can relate their symbolism better to the story
all the colour symbolism used by Margaret atwood helps us understan her ideas better, The color symbolism can also help to develop information and help to inform the texts major theme
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