Character Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale
We first meet Moira "breezing into" (P65) Offred's room at college.
She is the breath of fresh air. As Offred says, "She always made me
laugh" (P66). One of her roles is to bring humour to the reader, to
lighten the situation and contrast with the horror of the Gileadean
regime. An example of this is when Moira changes the hymn "There is a
Balm in Gilead" to "There is a Bomb in Gilead" (P230). Margaret Atwood
uses imagery to illustrate the role of Moira's humour in giving hope
to the handmaidens. She describes Moira as a "giggle; she was the lava
beneath the crust of daily life" for the handmaidens in the Red Centre
(P143). I think in this metaphor Margaret Atwood is describing the
effect of Moira's bubbly personality, always rising from under the
surface of the hard Gileadean regime.
Moira's rebellious and nonconformist nature is evident from Margaret
Atwood's first physical descriptions of her. Before the regime took
over, Moira had one "gold finger nail she wore to be eccentric" (P47).
I think Margaret Atwood uses Moira as the rebellious character
fighting against the regime. Her role is to stand out from the other
female characters. She is in contrast with the reaction to the
Gileadean regime of Offred, who endures the system in order to
survive, and Janine who is totally broken. Moira is the only female
character in the book to maintain her original name. This makes her
distinct from the other women in the book and is another example of
her individuality. Another role of Moira's rebellious nature is to
give hope to Offred and help her to survive. Following Moira's escape
from the Red Centre, Offred feels that "In the light of Moira, the
Aunts were less fearsome and more absurd" (P143). Margaret Atwood
describes her after her escape as being to the other handmaidens "like
an elevator with open sides" (P143). In this simile I believe she is
showing that Moira is able to take risks. She doesn't need the
security that the others need, she is frightening to them, as she
doesn't have the same fears.
Another example of Moira's character that shows her nonconformist
nature, is in that she made a political decision to become a lesbian.
She didn't realise that she was gay, "she'd decided to prefer women"
(P180). I think the role of Moira's sexuality is to contrast the
choice she had made before the regime took over, with the Gileadean
laws which prevent women from having any choice of partner or any
decision in the process of finding a partner, as "The marriages are of
course arranged" (P231).
Moira not only decided to become a lesbian, but also decided to be
sterilised many years before the regime took over. It is her
determination to survive which is displayed when she is sent to the