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Imagery in The Handmaid's Tale

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Evelyn Robertson

on 8 June 2015

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Transcript of Imagery in The Handmaid's Tale

By: Emily Moynes
Imagery in
The Handmaid's Tale

“A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way”
“Examples of Imagery.” YourDictionary. LoveToKnow Corp, n.d. Web. 1 June 2015.
Language utilized by authors that is both visual and figurative

What is Imagery?
Brings light to certain themes and overriding ideas
Examples in
The Handmaid's Tale
: clothing/colour, fertility, garden/flower, light and dark, eye, mirror, environmental, palimpsest, etc.
Clothing/Colour Imagery
Clothing is supposed to be a means of expressing oneself and being individualistic, yet the people of Gilead, are stripped of this freedom as they are forced to dress according to which social group they belong to
Able to see the social hierarchy that Atwood lays out
Clothing/Colour Imagery Cont'd
Red (Handmaids)
Blue (Wives)
Black (Commanders)
Green (Marthas)
Stripes (Econowives)
White (Daughters)
Loss of individuality ( e.g. The handmaids are only seen as what their biological purpose is)
The freedom to choose has been removed
Lack of identity (e.g. Offred struggles with detecting her true self now that everyone is the same)
Garden/Flower Imagery
Offred is drawn to nature, particularly, Serena Joy’s garden and the flowers within
Seen as being individualistic and bring forth the concept of standing on one’s own
She makes many references to the sexual nature of red tulips
Flowers symbolize fertility, life, and renewal
Represent freedom
Imagery Cont'd
Reveals the more human side to Serena Joy
She nurtures her garden instead of a child
The house is doused with flowers and floral decals, along with Serena Joy’s robes and veil that are embroidered with flowers
Even in the harsh totalitarian regime of Gilead, humanity is still present
Gives rise to themes, such as rebellion
Mirror Imagery
Mirrors are supposed to reflect who you are as a person, so without them, identity is lost
Offred's identity is taken away from her and she becomes the property of the Commander
She is in an endless battle with herself over her true identity, and whether to fight to keep it intact or to let it disappear along with everything else of pre-Gilead days
The only mirror in the Commander’s house is warped, in which “[Offred] can see…[herself] in it like a distorted shadow…descending towards a moment of carelessness that is the same as danger. A Sister, dipped in blood” (9).
Offred and Ofglen use the window of Soul Scrolls as a mirror, which allows for a connection between the two
Eye Imagery
Eyes in the novel are a symbol and a motif that turns into imagery in that you are always being watched wherever you are
Offred is aware that even Nick or the doctor might be an Eye, which instills fear in Offred and leads to paranoia among the other citizens of Gilead
The eye is reminiscent of the 'eye of God' and how it is perceived as being one with the totalitarian state of Gilead
Draws attention to the extreme forms to which the state will go to control their citizens
Handmaids are to be protected from the malicious gazes of men, yet the invasive nature of the Eyes appear to be even more uncomfortable
Media Synthesis:
Blade Runner
Media Synthesis:
Blade Runner
In literature, imagery brings forth visual images in the reader’s mind due to the graphic language, yet in films, the whole piece of work is conveyed through physical visuals
The director must develop imagery in the form of camera motifs, in which the camera will focus in on a particular object on a recurring basis
Imagery serves the same purpose in both literature and films - to emphasize the significance of an object or concept in terms of overriding ideas or themes
Fertility Imagery
Handmaids are only valued based on their fertility. Women are stripped down to their physiological offerings
Offred is aware of the fact that handmaid’s are merely “two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices” (171)
Offred’s role in life is to serve the Commander and his wife; she is no longer her own person
The outward appearance of the handmaids is not relevant; it is the inner workings of their bodies that are pertinent
Offred relishes in the warmth of the egg and how it almost seems to have an energy of its own, making a clear reference to the handmaids themselves and the egg of an unborn child that is to be formed within them
Environmental Imagery
Bleak and isolated environment surrounded by piles of toxic waste
Anyone who does not ‘fit’ in society is either executed or exiled to the Colonies to clean up the toxic waste that poisons the country
Highlights the harshness of the unstable society in which the citizens of Gilead live in, which mirrors the cruel nature of the new totalitarian regime
Palimpsest Imagery
The old world has been completely erased and replaced with what suits the needs of the theocratic government
What was once a high school in pre-Gilead days is now the Red Center
The government refurbished Harvard into a detention facility run by the Eyes
Signs have been painted over to cover the words
The Bible has been distorted in that countless excerpts have been rewritten for political gain
By repurposing everything, complete control is established over the citizens of Gilead, which demonstrates the concept of extremism and its harsh outcomes
Questions To Think About...
How does an author decide what they want to be reinforced throughout their novel?

- How can the author put a creative spin on these ideas to make their work attractive and flavourful?
How does an author choose what can symbolize their main ideas of what they are trying to inform the reader of? How will they reveal the underlying messages without being too obvious?
How can an author put a creative spin on these ideas to make their work attractive and flavourful?
Full transcript