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Joanne Nellas

on 2 April 2013

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by Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale Autobiography Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and an en environmental activist. She was born in Ontario, Canada in November of 1939. Atwood is best known for her works as a novelist and a poet. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales. Atwood's novel, 'The Handmaid's Tale,' has received the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987. It was given for the best science fiction novel that was first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. Atwood is part of a long line of women with feminist involvement and often portrays female characters dominated by patriarchy in her novels. Chapter 1 I Night *Offred reminisces about her old life.
*Talking to Moira, her best friend
*Going to the park with her Mother as a child
*Offred has forgotten a lot of things which she thinks is because of a pill/injection the government gave her.
*Offred remembers a time where she woke up somewhere screaming demanding to know what the authorities had done with her daughter. They told her that she was unfit of taking care of her daughter and that she was now with people fit to take care of her. III Night * Offred goes into her room and imagines scenarios as to where Luke might be.
o Dead
o Prison
o Safely across the border

* She does this so that nothing will surprise her. VII Night Margaret Atwood VI Household VIII Birth Day Chapters 19-23 * Flashback—written in past tense
* Women confined in a gymnasium; barbed wire fencing
* Women must whisper/mouth talk to each other in order to communicate II Shopping Chapters 2-6 *Commander’s wife likes to: garden, knit
o All wives knit scarves “for the Angels at the front lines”
* On her first day the new household (her 3rd home), Serena Joy tells her to stay out of her sight as much as possible.
* Wife smokes a cigarette—a black market item.
o Handmaids are forbidden coffee, cigarettes and, alcohol.
* Offred realizes that her new mistress as Serena Joy, the lead soprano from a Sunday-morning religious program that aired when Offred was a child. * Nick: a Guardian of Faith
o He winks at her but she doesn’t acknowledge it in fear that he might be an Eye, a spy sent to test her.
* Offred goes shopping with Ofglen—handmaids always go shopping in pairs.
o When they meet, they are careful not to say anything that would cause suspicion.
* They talk about how the war is going well; the army defeated a group of Baptist rebels.
* They reach a checkpoint with two young Guardians
o Guardians are routine police force; they’re too young/old/unfit for the army
o Recently, young guardians shot a Martha because she was fumbling for her pass and they thought her to be a man in disguise carrying a bomb.
* Young guardians are more dangerous because they are more nervous and fanatical than older guards.
* Offred subtly flirts with the Guardians through eye contact—she enjoys this small fraction of breaking the rules
o She considers how sex-starved they must be
* Can’t marry without permission
* Masturbation is sinful
* Pornographic magazines and films are banned
* Guardians can only hope to become Angels: men who can have a wife and eventually a handmaid * “The Republic of Gilead” –the name of Offred’s society
* Offred recalls how the world used to be before (women weren’t protected):
* Keeping doors closed to strangers
* Ignoring cat calls
* Now,
* No one whistles, talks or touches them
* The stores don’t have lettered signs, instead there are pictures. “They decided that even the names of shops were too much temptation for us.”
* Janine, from the Red Center, enters and is now pregnant. Now, she is Ofwarren. Offred believes she came just to show off because pregnant handmaids are not required to go out.
* Outside, they run into a group of Japanese tourists. Offred is amazed at their exposed legs, high heels and polished toenails. They ask to take a picture but Offred says no; she is scared of appearing immodest in front of the interpreters, many of whom are Eyes.
* The tourists ask if they are happy. Ofglen doesn’t reply; Offred replies that they are very happy. * Written in present tense; Offred now lives in a room without many privileges (no windows, room door doesn’t close, window is shatterproof)
* Offred recalls a time when Aunt Lydia told her that her circumstances were a privilege.
* Offred is a handmaid (wears completely red)
* Moved into a new household
o Serena Joy: Wife (wears blue)
o Cora, Rita: Marthas, household servants (wear green)
* Offred wants to be friends with the Marthas to gossip but they aren’t allowed to develop relationships.
* Offred goes out to buy groceries; collects tokens used to buy groceries from Rita. * On the way home from shopping, the two decide to take the long way and pass by the church. Now, it is kept as a museum. Across the street from the Church is the Wall. There, they hang the bodies of executed criminals.
* One body’s blood had seeped through the bag covering his head and formed a smile.
* All 6 bodies have pictured of fetuses around their necks; they are being punished for performing abortions when they were still legal (before Gilead)
* Offred is relieved that none of the bodies could be Luke’s (her husband before Gilead) because he was not a doctor. Chapter 7 IV Waiting Room Chapters 8-12 Chapters 14-17 V Nap Chapter 13 Chapter 18 IX Night Chapter 24 X Soul Scrolls Chapters 25-29 XI Night Chapter 30 XII Jezebel's Chapters 31-39 XIII Night Chapter 40 XIV Salvaging Chapters 41-45 XV Night Chapter 46 Article: Learning to be Sensitive to Sexism by Malik Singleton from the Chicago Tribune The article, "Learning to be Sensitive to Sexism," written by Malik Singleton discusses the discrimination and stereotypes of genders. Singleton says that sexism is the most crucial social issue of the decade. He explains how society expects men and women to act a certain way. Singleton advises that we "must become as sensitive to sexist activity as we are to that which is racist." This article connects to the novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood. The society in the novel teaches that women are to be cleaning, shopping, cooking, and a tool to reproduce. As well, it teaches that men are to be strong, working, and pleasured. I agree with the article's author's position on the issue of sexism. I believe that society has a fixed idea of how sexes are supposed to be. Because of the fixed idea, genders have to behave a certain way and do certain things because it's the "norm." * As Cora brings in Offred's breakfast, she finds her asleep in her wardrobe and screams.
* Offred visits the Commander's office two or three nights a week.
o The two play Scrabble, which is a forbidden game because women aren't allowed to read
o The Commander asks for a kiss
o The Commander allows Offred to look at old magazines such as Vogue, which has been hidden away in his office. * Offred feels a sense of guilt and power towards Serena Joy because she is unaware of the nights in the Commander's study.
* The Commander almost touches Offred's face during the Ceremony.
o Offred feels anxious that the Commander's body language will give them away and Serena Joy will send her to the colonies.
* Offred feels more comfortable with the Commander * Offred and Ofglen goes shopping.
o Offred thinks about how food stocks have depleted, especially fish, because they have been over-fished and polluted.
o Offred remembers buying ice cream with her daughter.
* Ofglen suggests visiting the Wall.
o Offred wonders if Luke is imprisoned inside the building behind it, which was once a University.
* Offred and Ofglen passes an old store that is now called "Soul Scrolls."
o Has machines where they print and recycle prayers on pieces of paper.
* Offred learnes that Ofglen is a part of a group of subversives.
* References
o Siamese twins: Offred and Ofglen are referenced as Siamese twins because they seem to move as one. * Many flashbacks:
* Offred thinks about Moira and her reaction if she knew about Offred's meetings with the Commander.
o Offred and Moira had usually argued about men-women relationships.
* Offred reflects on her previous life and when her whole life changed.
o The assassination of the President and the attack on Congress were blamed on Islamic extremists.
o A military group took control of the state.
o Newspapers were censored .
o Everyone soon had to carry an Identipass.
o Women's rights were stripped.
* Bank accounts were frozen.
* Fired from their jobs and forbidden from holding property.
* Offred remembers how her mother took part in protests, and feminist, pro-abortion rallies. * The Commander is hesitant to give information about himself when Offred asks.
* Offred learns that the old handmaid must have learned the carving "Nolite te bastardes carboundorum" from the Commander as he gives her the meaning of it.
* When Offred asks about the previous handmaid, the Commander tells her that Serena Joy had found out about her visits to his study.
o The old handmaid hanged herself in the wardrobe.
Cora was alarmed when she found Offred asleep in her wardrobe probably because she thought Offred had hanged herself, just like the old handmaid. * At night, Offred sits by her window and sees Nick.
o As they glance at each other, Offred senses desire for him.
* Offred flashes back to when she and Luke tried to escape Gilead.
o The attempt to escape failed because the Eyes were waiting for them.
* Someone must have reported their plans
* Offred realizes she is beginning to forget what her husband and her daughter looked like.
*Offred prays and wonders how she can bear to keep living. Roecille Adan
Joanne Nellas * Offred walks again with Ofglen to the Wall.
o There were two bodies hanging: A Catholic, and a body marked with a 'J.' Offred wonders if the body marked was a Jew and remembers how Jews were forced to leave Gilead.
* Jews had a choice to either covert or emigrate to Israel.
* Some people pretended to be Jewish so they can escape Gilead.
* Ofglen tells Offred that if she wants to get in touch with other subversives to use the password: Mayday.
* Serena Joy asks Offred if there were any signs of pregnancy and thinks that the Commander is sterile.
o Serena Joy suggests to try with another man since that's how Janice (Ofwarren) got pregnant.
o Serena Joy suggests to try with Nick.
o In exchange, Serena Joy offers a picture of Offred's daughter and a cigarette. * Offred saves her cigarette and her match.
* Ofglen tells Offred that the Commander is very powerful.
o The Commander tells Offred that before Gilead, there was nothing for men. He asks of her opinion on Gilead, but Offred gives no input.
o The Commander knows how unhappy she is and says, "You can't make an omlette without breaking eggs."
* Back in her room, Offred looks up at the ceiling and wonders how the previous handmaid found safety in death. * Offred attends a Prayvaganza at the old university building with the other women. A women's Prayvaganza is a wedding for the Wive's daughters where girls as young as fourteen get married.
o The Wives and their daughters sit together in one section, the Marthas and Econowives in another, and the Handmaids kneel in their own section.
* Janine is assigned to a new household.
o Ofglen tells Offred that Janine's baby was a shredder (deformed).
o It was Janine's second baby and her first died eight months into pregnancy.
o Janine used the doctor to get her pregnant this time. * Offred wonders if the girls will remember anything before Gilead.
* Offred remembers a conversation with the Commander where he explains that although Gilead has taken away some freedom, it guaranteed safety and dignity. Offred says that he left out love.
o Offred recalls Aunt Lydia saying the women in the Centre can't think or talk about love.
* Offred remembers how Aunt Lydia has always said that the real goal is Gilead to is to create friendship between women.
* Ofglen whispers to Offred of how the subversives know about Offred's meeting with the Commanders and urges her to get whatever information she can. * Offred get a flash back of when she, Luke, and her daughter tried to cross the border to Canada
o Used fake passports
o As the guard picked up the phone, Luke sped away.
o They got out of the car and sped away.
* Offred tries to remember love and how it felt to be in love.
* Offred cries as she thinks Luke might be dead.
* Serena Joy enters the room with a polaroid picture of Offred's daughter.
o Her daughter was in a white dress and has grown a lot.
o She realizes that her daughter might have forgotten her, and that her life is meaningless to her daughter. * Offred visits the Commander again but he has already started drinking.
* The Commander gives her a racy feminine outfit and make up and asks to take her out.
o The Commander gets out one of Serena Joy's cloaks and tell her to pretend that she is his Wife.
o Nick drives them around but doesn't notice Offred.
o When they got to their destination, the Commander tells Offred to lie on the car of the car as they pass the gateway.
o They stop in an alley and as the Commander opens the door, he slips a purple tag around Offred's wrist and tells her to say she's an "evening rental," if anyone asks. The Republic of Gilead * Offred realizes she is in a hotel she used to go to with Luke.
o She's astounded to see so many women walking around freely in revealing clothing.
o The Commander explains that the club is forbidden, but men needs a variety of women to be satisfied.
o Some women were prostitutes before Gilead, others were lawyers, sociologists, and buisiness women. They prefer being in the club rather than the Colonies or being a Handmaid.
* Offred sees Moira when the Commander goes to get a drink.
o Moira is in a playboy outfit and smoking.
o Moira signals to meet her in the washroom.
o Offred asks to go to the washroom as the Commander comes back. *As Offred and Ofglen return from another shopping trip, they notice 3 more bodies on the Wall. One is a priest and the two others are Guardians. On their neck, the sign reads “Gender Treachery.” This means they were hanged because they committed homosexual acts.
* Continuing on their walk, they pass by a funeral procession of Econowives –wives of the poorer men.
o One econowife is holding a black jar, holding an embryo from an early miscarriage. Unbaby—babies with birth defects
o Econowives don’t like Handmaids
-At the home, Nick talks to Offred; breaking the rules once again.
o She ignores him and continues into the house
-Offred recalls how Serena Joy used to be a public figure
oWhen her singing career ended, she became a spokesperson for respecting the “sanctity of the home” and that women should be at home rather than working.
-Offred goes up to her room and sees the Commander standing outside her room.
oHe nods at her and then leaves * Offred remembers her old life again:
o When Luke and her rented a hotel room before they were married, when he was cheating on his first wife
o She was truly happy
o She regrets not appreciating the freedom she had.
* She examines her room:
o Scratched onto the bottom of her closet is “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”
* Even though Offred doesn’t understand latin, it makes her happy to communicate with the old handmaid. * We find out that most music is forbidden in Gilead.
o Sometimes, she hears Serena listening and humming to old recordings of her when she was still the famous gospel singer.
* Summer is coming soon:
o Aunt Lydia described the things that would happen to women when they wore little clothing.
* Offred remembers when Moira threw an “underwhore” party (selling lingerie).
* The only word given to Offred to read is “Faith”. It is embroidered on a cushion placed next to her window. She spends a lot of time looking at it. * Offred and Moira meet in the washroom and is given 15 minutes.
o Moira explains that some Commanders like coming to the hotel with their Handmaids for power and pleasure.
* Moira tells the story of her escape
o After escaping the Red Center in Aunt Elizabeth's clothes, she went to a home of a Quaker couple involved in the resistance.
o The Quakers put her in an Underground Femaleroad, which was a system for getting women into safety. As they tried to smuggle Moira out of the country, she got caught.
o The Eyes tortured her and showed her clips of the Colonies, where the unwomen clean up radioactive spills and dead bodies from the war. The life expectancy is three years.
* The unwomen are sterile women, feminists, nuns, lesbians, widows that are exiled to the colonies
o Moira chose to work in Jezebels, the hotel, as a prostitute.
* Moira suggests Offred to work in the club
o They get three to four years to live and face cream.
* Offred misses the old Moira.
* Offred never sees Moira again.
* Jezebels: prostitutes and entertainers. -Offred went to visit the doctor for her monthly pregnancy and disease checkup.
-Although there is a paper blocking her face from her doctor, he is still cheerful and talkative. He offers to help her by impregnating her himself.
o Offred refuses because she is scared of getting caught. She refuses in a casual way so that the doctor isn’t offended
The doctor could falsely report a health problem in her and then she could be sent over to the “Unwomen.” * Offred goes back to the Commander where he brings her to his hotel room.
* She remembers Moira saying she saw Offred's mother in the movie, but says she would be better of dead.
* Offred can't remembers seeing her mother for the last time, but remembers how much spirit she used to have.
o She realizes the Colonies must have stripped it away.
* The Commander is disappointed that Offred is not as excited as he thought.
* He looks smaller and older without his clothes.
* He reveals Offred's tattoo, one that all Handmaids have.
* Offred doesn't feel anything for the Commander and orders herself to fake it. -It’s Offred’s mandatory bath day.
o Cora sits outside and waits for her to finish.
o Offred thinks about the past again:
* Gilead authorities took her daughter when she was 5 years old which was 3 years ago.
-At dinner, Offred hides butter in a napkin and keeps it in her shoe. * Offred thinks about the past again:
o After being in the Red Centre for 3 weeks, Moira came too. They pretended not to know each other so it wouldn’t seem suspicious. They met up in the restroom.
o At the Red Centre, everyone was required to talk about their past lives. Janine (now Ofwarren) testified that she was gang-raped. Everyone said it was Janine’s fault because she led them on.
o Offred used to think of her body as an instrument of pleasure but now, it’s just a uterus.
o Offred remembers when she was in the forest, escaping with her daughter. She wasn’t able to run fast because of her daughter. She begged her daughter to stay quiet but she was too young to understand. * Now, Offred must attend the ceremony which the Commander is always late to.
o She kneels in front of Serena who is sitting. Rita, Cora and Nick stand behind her. Nick’s foot touches Offred’s.
o They watch the news as they wait for the Commander
* Offred remembers how Luke and she used fake passports in hope of passing the border. They brought nothing to make it seem like they were going on a picnic; they gave her daughter sleeping pills so she couldn’t be questioned. * The commander comes and reads from the Bible passage that emphasizes childbearing.
o He reads the story of Rachel and Leah. (Rachel was infertile so she urged her husband to have a child by her mad, Bilhah.)
*At the Red Centre, this story was drilled into their heads; played on a recording so they wouldn’t commit the sin of reading.
* Moira tried to escape by bribing one of the men in the ambulance with sex but he reported her. Moira was tortured by the aunts with steel cable on the feet; aunt Lydia reminded them that their hands and feet did not matter for their purpose. * Serena Joy for Nick and Offred to meet at midnight to get Offred pregnant.
o Serena Joy gives Offred directions to Nick's apartment.
* Offred tells two different stories of what happened.
o In the first story, they make love and he makes her feel love again.
o In the second story, it was awkward. They quote old movies, and Offred begins to cry.
* Nick tells her, "No romance," before they begin.
* Offred says that neither stories are exactly what happened.
* Offred feels ashamed and thinks she betrayed Luke. * After the prayer service, the Ritual happens.

o Offred lies down between Serena Joy’s legs with her head resting on her pubic bone. The Commander quickly has sex with Offred.
o After they’re done, Serena Joy tells Offred to leave even though she’s supposed to rest for a while to improve the chances of getting pregnant. * Offred goes to her room and uses her saved butter to lotion her face
o Beauty products are forbidden for Handmaids
* Offred decides to steal a daffodil. She plans to put it under her mattress and leave it for the next Handmaid.
* She sees Nick and they kiss. She wants to have sex with him but realizes that its too dangerous.
o Nick tells her that the Commander wants to see her in his office tomorrow. * Janine (Ofwarren) is now in labor. Offred wonders is she‘ll give birth to an Unbaby.
* Offred remembers that Aunt Lydia called women who didn’t want babies Jezebels, scorners of God’s gifts. * Aunt Lydia called women who didn’t want to breed lazy sluts. She said that childbirth is better in Gilead than the old days because it is all natural; no drugs to help with the pain. This is because it is better for the baby and because God wants women to suffer during childbirth. * While Ofwarren gives birth in the master bedroom, the Wife lies in the sitting room as if she is giving birth. The handmaid’s gather around the bed and Offred’s mind wanders to the past once again.

o She remembers how her mother was a very strong feminist. They often fought because he mother thought she didn’t appreciate what the women were doing for the next generation. Even still, Offred misses her Mom and wishes to see her. * The handmaids help Janine give birth by chanting.
* One handmaid asks Offred if she’s looking for someone and Offred describes Moira. The other handmaid is looking for a woman named Alma but before they can continue the conversation, one of the Aunts who heard the break in the chant glance at them.
* When the baby is born, it is a girl without any visible defects and everyone rejoices.
o Janine will then nurse the baby for a few months before transferring to a new Commander.
Janine won’t be called an Unwoman because she produced a child. -Offred recalls how Moira was able to escape
o She caused a toilet to overflow and when Aunt Elizabeth came in the washroom, she stabbed a piece from the toilet into her rib and led her to the furnace room.
oThere, she switched clothes with her, tied her up then walked out of the Red Centre. * At home, Cora hopes that they too will have a child soon.
* That night, Offred sneaks into the Commander’s office where they play Scrabble. She is surprised because any form of reading is forbidden.
* Before she leaves, the commander asks her for a kiss and so she gives him a kiss.
o he wishes he kissed her like she meant it * When Offred gets back to her room, she realizes that she can get something from the Commander. So, she must forget her old name and past and live in the present.
o She remembers that Aunt Lydia told the girls that men can be manipulated with sex because they are sex-machines
* She goes to her closet and falls asleep on the floor. Article: Infertile Couples Need Option of Surrogacy New York Times In this article, the writer discusses how surrogacy is an option for couples unable to reproduce on their own. The writer of this article favors surrogacy, saying that it is a "new and wonderful alternative to infertile couples."

This article strongly relates to the Handmaid's Tale. In the Handmaid's Tale, Offred is a woman whose only purpose in this society is to have babies. She moves in with a couple and must bear the child of the husband or she may be marked as an Unwoman. Offred is a surrogate; her job is to carry a child for the couple.

In my opinion, I am neutral about the surrogacy topic. I believe it is the couples' and surrogate's decision. Of course, adoption is also an option. However, I can understand that a couple may want their own offspring made from their genes and flesh. * Offred continues to visit Nick without Serena Joy's knowledge.
* Offred is beginning to forget what Luke looks like.
* Nick doesn't talk much but Offred feels comfortable telling Nick her real name, her past, Moira and Ofglen, but not about Luke.
o Offred tells him she thinks she's pregnant but feels it is only wishful thinking.
* Ofglen tells Offred to spy on the Commander on what he does and what his responsibilities are, but she is too focused on Nick. * The women go to the Salvaging.
o A large execution.
o Held in what used to be the Harvard Yard.
* Aunt Lydia decides to discontinue announcing the committed crimes as it only sparks copycat crimes.
* Three women have been hanged: Two Handmaids and a Wife.
* Wives only get Salvaged for three reasons:
o Killing a Handmaid
o Trying to escape
o Adultery * The execution has finished. Aunt Lydia tells the Handmaids to form a circle.
* Some women leaves but most Wives and their daughters stay.
* A Guardian is brought to the front.
o He is beaten so he is unrecognizable.
o Appears drugged.
o Convicted of rape.
* One of the women was pregnant and had lost her baby.
*Aunt Lydia blows her whistle and the Handmaids would crowd in to finish him.
o Ofglen runs straight to him and beats him repeatedly.
* Whispers to Offred that he is part of the rebellion and wanted to end his misery. * Offred goes for another shopping trip. * She meets a new Ofglen.
* Offred tries to use the password, "Mayday," by talking about the Holiday.
* Offred finds out she knows about the subversives but isn't part of it.
* As they part way, Ofglen whispers that the previous Ofglen had hanged herself when she saw the black van coming for her. * Offred feels she will do anything to keep on living even if it meant to stop rebelling and stop visiting Nick.
* Serena Joy calls Offred and shows her the coat and dress that Offred had worn to the hotel with the Commander.
o Serena Joy calls Offred a slut just like the other Handmaid.
* Offred wants to run to Nick for comfort but she can't because he can't do anything to help her. * Offred waits in her room for Serena Joy's punishment
* Offred thinks of things she can do:
o Use the match she had been given and hopefully die from smoke inhalation.
o Hang herself in the closet.
o Wait for Serena Joy.
* Offred hears a van coming for her with the Eyes on either sides.
* Nick comes into her room and tells her to go with them
o He tells her the van is Mayday but Offred doesn't know whether to believe her or not.
o Offred follows Nick's instructions anyway.
* As the men escort Offred out, Serena Joy demands to know what she had done.
o The men tells her it's "violation of state secrets."
* Offred goes into the van without knowing if she is rescued or about be killed. The Republic of Gilead is set in the near future where people face a huge deal of pollution and chemical radiation. Gilead is what used to have been the United States. The democratic government has been overthrown and replaced with a totalitarian one. The state of Gilead is desperate to deal with the increase of male sterility, miscarriages and birth defects due to pollution and chemical poisoning. Their solution are Handmaids. The women who have viable ovaries are put into households with a Commander, a Wife, a Guardian, and Marthas.

Biblical Reference:
Gilead is a reference to the story of Rachel and Leah in the Old Testament. Rachel and Leah competed against each other in bearing sons for their husband, Jacob. They use handmaids and take the children when given birth. Gilead and the story are surrounded by jealousy, female competition, and reproductive cruelty. Symbol: Red The Handmaids wear a red uniform to symbolize fertility and sexual sin.

The colour red symbolizes fertility for the blood in the menstrual cycle and childbirth. It also symbolizes sexual sin as the Handmaids, although it is their job, are committing adultery since their Commander is married. Theme: Identity In Gilead, most people are identified by their given names or class. The women are either a Wife, a Handmaid, Aunt, or Martha based on their age and/or fertility. For example, if they old and infertile, they become Marthas. If they have viable ovaries, they become a Handmaid and receive a new name based on their Commander. They are identified by their fertility instead of their name, personality, etc. In the past, Canada is often used as safety or a place to escape. When Offred has a flashback, she remembers when she, Luke, and her daughter tried to escape from Gilead to Canada. Canada was once at the top of the underground railroad before the Civil War. Also, during the Vietnam War, men would come to Canada to avoid being drafted. The role of Canada meant safety unless someone took you back. Symbol: Canada Tone: Gloomy The tone of Offred is somber and nostalgic. She often remembers her past life, before Gilead. Offred also sounds paranoid because of the state of her government. She fears getting caught and being punished for breaking the rules. Symbol: Eyes Gilead is a theocracy (a government ruled by religious authority). The Eyes are their secret police whose symbol is a winged eye. This symbolizes the strong watchfulness of God and the government. Important Quote " I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping." (Chapter 13) In this quote, Offred compares her life from before Gilead to now. She remembers how she used to think so highly of her body. However, now, it is only important for her womb. When did Atwood write this? Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale" after the elections of Ronald Reagan (US) and Margaret Thatcher (Great Britain). During this time, there was a revival of strong conservative values. This was because of a party in the West who had very strong religious values. They criticized the "sexual revolution" in the 1960s & 1970s. Their growing power threatened the advancements made in womens rights. Symbol/Setting:
Cambridge, Massachusetts In an interview, Atwood said that the center of Gilead's power the town of Cambridge. This is important because both Cambridge and Massachusetts were once the centers of America's first religious and strict society- the Puritan New England of the seventeenth century. This symbolizes the similarities between the Puritans and Gilead; both groups were strict when it came to religion, sexuality and politics. Quote "The problem wasn't only with the women, he says. The main problem was with the men. There was nothing for them anymore... I'm not talking about the sex, he says. That was part of it, the sex was too easy... You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel. Men were turning off on sex, even. They were turning off on marriage. Do they feel now? I say. Yes, he says, looking at me. They do." (Chapter 32) In this quote, the Commander is trying to explain to Offred the reasons for Gilead. He suggests that the sudden revolution in feminism left men without a purpose in life. He says that when the mens' roles as womens protectors were taken away, men did not know what to do. Also, the Commander says that because of the fact that sex was becoming easier to get, it lost its meaning. Quote " The problem wasn’t only with the women, he says. The main problem was with the men. There was nothing for them anymore . . . I’m not talking about sex, he says. That was part of it, the sex was too easy . . . You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel. Men were turning off on sex, even. They were turning off on marriage. Do they feel now? I say. Yes, he says, looking at me. They do. " (Chapter 32) In this quote, the Commander is trying to explain to Offred the reasons for Gilead. He says that men lost their purpose in life when the sexual revolution occurred; men were no longer the protectors of women. Also, because of the fact that sex became easier to get, it lost its meaning. Symbol: Flowers Throughout the novel, flowers are present. Flowers are usually symbols for beauty or fertility. They are constant reminders of the fertility that many women in the novel don't have. Many older wives hold onto their beauty and attractiveness by growing gardens. Foreshadowing: The Kiss When Offred and Nick kiss, it foreshadows
their future affair.
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