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Representation Of Colors In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

1784 words - 7 pages

Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

Imagine if you can, living in a world that tells you what you are to wear, where to live, as well as your position and value to society. In Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, she shows us the Republic of Gilead does just that. Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid, whose usefulness is her ovaries. Handmaids are ordered to live in a house with a Commander, his wife, and once a month attempt to become pregnant by the Commander. Throughout Atwood's novel, you will notice she uses different colors for her characters clothing that correspond to their position and place in the Republic of Gilead. They become aware of people's statuses by the color of their garments. The colors of dress that have been used are red, blue, green, white, black, and khaki. Going into detail, I will show the social rank that each color represents in the novel, and my interpretation of them. The Handmaids are the only ones wearing red dresses, and several references are made towards the comparison of blood. "When Offred is in the room, which she refuses to call her own, she hears the bell to signal her time to go to the market. Getting up she puts on her red shoes and her red gloves, all the while thinking, everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us. The dress she wears is also red, being ankle-length as well as long sleeve. The only item she wears that isn't red is the white wings around her face to keep her from seeing, as well as from being seen. Leaving the room, she walks down the hall, and heads for the stairs. She knows there is a mirror on the hall wall. If she turns her head so that the white wings framing her face direct her vision towards the mirror, she is able to see herself in it.

The mirror is round, convex, a pier glass, like the eye of a fish. Offred can see herself in the mirror like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairy-tale figure in a red cloak, descending towards a moment of carelessness that is in the same as danger. A Sister, dipped in blood."(8). In Cliff Notes, Mary Ellen Snodgrass wrote, "The persistent color motif suggesting menstruation and the female cycle in the blatant scarlet color of the Handmaid's uniform"(31). For that reason, it seems appropriate the color used to represent the Handmaids is red. Their job is to deliver a child for Commanders and their wives; therefore, the menstruation cycle has a strong meaning. Giving birth is another representation. Red could be associated with the bleeding and afterbirth that is part of childbirth. The mode of transportation to travel to the birth of a fellow Handmaid is the Birthmobile. The bench seats, curtains, and floor, as well as the Birthmobile itself, is red. The place where all of the of Handmaids are trained as potential breeders is named "Red Center." That is where they are taught how to act and present themselves proudly. The Red Center is...

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