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How flowers are used in The Handmaid's

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Elizabeth Rodriguez

on 10 January 2014

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Transcript of How flowers are used in The Handmaid's

How flowers are used in
The Handmaid's
Tale
to represent fertility.

Background about Flowers
Flowers are the part of a plant that is bright in color, and from which the seed or fruit develops. It is the part of the seed plant that bears reproductive organs.

Flowers include petals, sepals, carpels, and stigma (these are the female reproductive organs.) The male reproductive part in flowers are stamens.

Pollination is the process in which pollen has to fertilize an ovule in order to produce a successful seed.
Atwood uses flowers as a symbol to represent the handmaid's fertility.

"Think of yourselves as seeds" (pg 18).

- Seeds: a flower's unit of reproduction, which is capable of reproducing into another plant.


"Even at her age she still feels the urge to wreathe herself in flowers. No use for you. I think at her, my face unmoving, you can't use them anymore, you're withered. They're the genital organs of plants" (pg 81-82).

Wither: (of plant) to become dry and shriveled.

Offred is referring to Serena. Handmaids are the only fertile women in the society. Offred used the word "withered" to compare Serena to a dried plant since she is no longer fertile.
"such is the soil in which we grow" (pg 169).

"Here and there are worms, evidence of the fertility of the soil caught by the sun" (pg 17).
Once again Atwood compares the fertility of the handmaids to flowers. Offred said "in which we grow" she considers herself and the other handmaids flowers because they are capable of reproducing in a society where nobody else can. Flowers are the only ones that blossom in the society which are used to represent the Handmaids fertility.
"Possibly he wants something from me, some emotion, some acknowledgment that he too is human, is more than just a seedpod" (pg 262).
"Many of the Wives have such gardens, it's something for them to order and maintain and care for" (pg 12).
The wives care for the gardens which can represent children since they don't have any. Gardens are usually used to grow flowers, but it is also a place where children play.
"We would have a garden, swings for the children. We would have children" (pg 23).

"looking out through the curtain at the empty garden"(pg 194).
Serena Joy and all the other wives have gardens because it is the only way in which they can create life. They are not fertile women which is a failure in their society.
Gardens are also used to represent the control that the wives have over the handmaids.
"She was snipping off the seedpods with a pair of shears" (pg 153).
The quote suggests that Serena Joy feels jealousy towards the handmaids because they are fertile.
Tone towards flowers
Offred's tone towards flowers is hopeful.

"Flowers, for instance, because where would we be without them?" (pg 267).
Flowers represent fertility. There is a need for children in the society and fertile women are capable of bringing them to life. Flowers are used because they are something beautiful, and they blossom during a time where nobody else does.
Tone towards flowers
Serena Joy's tone towards flowers is envious.
"She was aiming, positioning the blades of the shears, then cutting with a convulsive jerk of the hands. Was it the arthritis , creeping up? Or some blitzkrieg, some kamikaze, committed on the swelling genitalia of the flowers?" (pg 153).
blitzkrieg: an intense military campaign intended to bring about a swift victory.
kamikaze: in WWI a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target.
The quote shows that not only women are being used in the society but also men.
Fertility is positive in a normal society. However, in the Republic of Gilead it is something negative.

It's negative because all men and women are treated bad. Wives are humiliated and handmaids are not valued. Men are not valued either they are only used because they can get a woman pregnant.
"Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband"
Full transcript