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The Handmaid's Tale; Serena Joy's Garden

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Eleanor Crone

on 31 January 2014

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Transcript of The Handmaid's Tale; Serena Joy's Garden

Nature inside the House
In a number of parts in the novel the presence of nature within the house is described. This acts as an element of taunting, reinforcing the concept of natures freedom sustained by only the natural world and lacked by humans. The decorative pieces of flowers within the house are used almost superstitiously as a symbol of fertility to almost be used as an aid to achieve conception. Flowers are also the area of the plant which carries the reproductive organs, allowing nature to blossom, something which all the other women are seemingly haunted by- the inability to be fertile and reproduce.

The Handmaid's Tale; Serena Joy's Garden
Serena Joy's Responsibility
The only responsibility Serena Joy is given within the novel is to maintain the garden. The reproduction of nature is allowing for the infertile wife of the Commander to nurture her own creation. This also gives Serena the ability to control something as she is unable to control her own body, as she is cannot conceive. Serena's desire to take control is particularly evident when she is using sharp bladed shears to cut the heads of the flowers, it is here, most evident that she holds resentment towards the garden for escaping the entrapment of the regime which she could not avoid. Serena Joy takes a bizarre pleasure in mutilating flowers: when the narrator sees her chopping them awkwardly.
The Moon
Often a female motherly figure which is out at night, the time most significant in terms of thought process for Offred. The moon also symbolizes the menstrual cycle and for the women this is a sign of failure as menstruation means they are not pregnant.
“Every month there is a moon, gigantic, round, heavy, an omen. It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of sight and I see despair coming towards me like famine.” “Every month there is a moon, gigantic, round, heavy, an omen. It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of sight and I see despair coming towards me like famine.” p84
Symbolism of Flowers
Flowers have many connotations especially within the novel they symbolize blossoming life, beauty, fertility, freedom and prosperity. The flower bleeding love symbolizes redemptive sacrifice and allows the biblical reference of Jesus and the sacrificing of his body in order to allow us all to sin. Flowers are biblically glamorized described as chalices which embody the bloods of Christ, this emphasizes the superiority of nature and its ability to have an innate connection with God and not the new adaption of Christianity to the Gilead state.
Represention of Nature
The imagery of nature within the novel implies a sense of freedom of which humans within the Gilead society cannot achieve. The vivid description of the garden portrays the vibrancy of nature and furthermore the impulse of nature, the only thing that cannot be controlled by a totalitarian state. The parallels between tulips and Handmaid’s are found through their colour and gives connotations of both function and death. The blood red presents the thriving of new life and offers a biblical reference to the blood of Christ. Both nature and the handmaid’s have the same function, this is to reproduce. The natural world is always a crucial aspect in the novel as it is most often featured as a central or ever vacant topic. Pathetic fallacy also is used creatively by Atwood to portray the inner workings of Gilead with the fence acting as a border from the outside world and the unspoken feelings of the women (Serena Joy and Offred) in the house.
Pages Of Significance
Page 17- "Sunlight comes in through the window... A print of flowers, blue irises, watercolour. Flowers are still allowed."

Page 22- "Wives have such gardens, it something for them to order and maintain and care of. Commander's Wife has a chair brought out, and just sits in it, in her garden."

Page 27- "There are worms, evidence of the fertility of the soil, caught by the sun, half dead; flexible and pink, like lips."

Page 75- "You must be a worthy vessel."

Page 83- "Each month i watch for blood...when it comes it means failure. 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."

Page 85- "close to my eyes, there's a leaf, red, turned early, i can see every bright vein. Its the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Page 99- "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth."

Page 109- "What should i take?.. a magic flower. The daffodils. ... dried flowers."

Page 160- "The tulips have had their moment and are done, shedding their petals one by one, like teeth. Positioning the blades of the shears....swelling genitalia of the flowers? The fruiting body. To cut off the seed pods is supposed to make the bulb store energy.

Page 279- "Sudden realization important to ones life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms, or snow.....Flowers, for instance because where would be without them?"

Page 305- "The dusk ad i think its being winter. The snow falling, gently, effortlessly, covering everything, in soft crystal, the mist of moonlight before a rain, blurring the outlines, obliterating colour."

Page 307- "And so i step up, into the darkness within; or else the light."
Biblical References
The main reference to Christianity occurs when referring to flowers as chalices- of which in the bible are used at the last supper when Jesus' followers drink wine from the chalice representing his blood the night before his crucifixion. Similarly to times referred to in the Old Testament the in ability to conceive appeared unnatural and was shunned upon. In the book of Samuel 1:9, 'So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” This is reflected within the Gilead society with the praying in the services a time for handmaid's to pray for conception- and receive it such as Hannah did.


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