This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Symbolism And Loss Of Identity In The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

932 words - 4 pages

Symbolism and Loss of Identity in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Offred recounts the story of her life and that of others in Gilead, but she does not do so alone. The symbolic meanings found in the dress code of the women, the names/titles of characters, the absence of the mirror, and the smell and hunger imagery aid her in telling of the repugnant conditions in the Republic of Gilead. The symbols speak with a voice of their own and in decibels louder than Offred can ever dare to use. They convey the social structure of Gileadean society and carry the theme of the individual's loss of identity.

All the women in Gilead wear color-coded uniforms. The colors parade their social status and/or role in the reproductive process. The 'Aunts' who run the Rachel and Leah Re-Education Center wear brown; they are responsible for the indoctrination of the handmaids. The 'Marthas,' who wear green, are the servants. The 'Wives' wear a type of Virgin-Mary blue, which signifies their inability to bear children. The handmaids wear red robes and white peaked hats which resemble nuns' habits. Thus, they personify a religious sacrifice; they are like "temple prostitutes doomed to a kind of purdah in perpetuity" (Rigney 117). In addition, the red color of their clothing symbolizes their fertility.

The color-coded uniforms that the women wear does more than just signify their functions. Along with the names/titles of characters, they symbolize the individual's loss of identity. No distinguishing mark of a woman is considered; rather, she is lumped with a group in which she is defined only by her social and reproductive function. Essentially, the color-coded uniforms strip each woman of her identity (Stein 81).

The loss of individual identity can also be seen in the names and titles of characters. First, it is symbolized by the handmaids' patronymic names. Their names are formed with the possessive preposition, 'of,' and the first name of the 'Commander' for whom they are to bear children (for instance: 'Of-Fred'). The handmaids are moved to a new posting after three attempts to bear child for the 'Commander' and his wife; at each new location, they drop their former name and adopt their new Commander's name. Thus, while the narrator's name is currently Offred, she may later become Ofglen, Ofwaren, or some other such patronym. Like their names, the handmaids have no personal identity and they lack stability; like their names, they are interchangeable and replaceable with each other (LeBihan 102).

It isn't just handmaids, or even only women that have forfeited their personal identity; men have lost theirs as well. Their loss of individualism is symbolized by their generic titles. There are three classes of men in Gilead: the 'Commanders,' the Doctors, and the 'Eyes.' Like the color-coded uniforms of the women, the generic titles of the men announce...

Find Another Essay On Symbolism and Loss of Identity in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

623 words - 2 pages In Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, our eyes are open to an oppressive society of which seems to be the near future. Widespread sterility has led to the rich controlling young women of childbearing age, who are called “handmaidens”. The tale is narrated by Kate, also known as “Offred”, her handmaid name. She relates her struggle throughout in the most vivid of ways. The struggle around her: the oppressive Republic of Gilead, and the

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

661 words - 3 pages In The Handmaid’s Tale, much use is made of imagery; to enable the reader to create a more detailed mental picture of the novel’s action and also to intensify the emotive language used. In particular, Atwood uses many images involving flowers and plants. The main symbolic image that the flowers provide is that of life; in the first chapter of the novel Offred says “…flowers: these are not to be dismissed. I am alive.” Many of the flowers

Critical Analysis Of 'The Handmaid's Tale' By Margaret Atwood

1052 words - 5 pages The creation of Offred, the passive narrator of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, was intentional. The personality of the narrator in this novel is almost as important as the task bestowed upon her. Atwood chooses an average women, appreciative of past times, who lacks imagination and fervor, to contrast the typical feminist, represented in this novel by her mother and her best friend, Moira. Atwood is writing for a specific audience

Heros in Gilgamesh by David Ferry and Offred The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

961 words - 4 pages on her own. In conclusion, there are many different types of heroes. Some are powerful and mythological, others are achievers and still others are just the main characters of a book. Gilgamesh of Gilgamesh by David Ferry and Offred of The Handmaid's Tale byMargaret Atwood are both heroes in their own light. Gilgamesh was a powerful ruler who befriends a rival. Offred was a passive woman who with the help of others was able to escape her society.Works CitedAtwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Random House, Inc. 1998.Ferry, David. Gilgamesh. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992.

The Presentation of the Commander in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

793 words - 3 pages The Presentation of the Commander in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood The commander can be seen as a man torn between two worlds, he was one of the founders of Gilead yet still enjoys and yearns for the pleasures of the old society he managed to break. It can be seen as ' he has made his bed and now he must sleep in it'. The commander is cool and collected on the surface but underneath he is bitter and corrupted

The theme of power and control as demonstrated through The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

2232 words - 9 pages of the patriarchal society. Therefore, the Commander and the Commander's Wives are at the top of the power structure in society, and the Handmaids are below them.It is clear that the dystopic novel, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood demonstrates the theme of power and control through the depiction of the Republic of Gilead; a severely oppressive society. This theme is portrayed by the role of government, the role of the Aunts, and the

This essay compares the treatment of women in the novel Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood), and the country Afghanistan

743 words - 3 pages countries such as Afghanistan. The author (Margaret Atwood) has created a novel, which can be considered a fictional interpretation to the harshness of society in Afghanistan toward women.From the opening chapters of The Handmaid's Tale we catch a glimpse into the overwhelmingly harsh society that is Gilead. The narrator Offred, explains that she is held at a guarded facility, where the violation of basic human rights would be an understatement

The Handmaid's Tale: A Reflection of the Past and Warnings for Future Generations Author: Margaret Atwood

6272 words - 25 pages becoming more successful, content and accomplished. The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel, displays patriarchy and approaches what roles men and women have in the new society. When the United States suffered a right-wing takeover, the Republic of Gilead, a system designed by Atwood, takes over to resolve the problems of infertility and the decreasing population in the society. Offred, the protagonist, guides readers through her point of view of the

How are the main characters in "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood constructed to represent the text's underlying values and attitudes?

1514 words - 6 pages author's construction of the main characters and the attitudes and values they represent. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is one such text that utilises characterisation in order to convey the underlying attitudes and values presented. The Handmaid's Tale depicts the western democratic society of America, overthrown by a totalitarian society known as Gilead. The focus Atwood constructs is on the demise of western democratic ideals, such as

The Hope and Hopelessness of Moira: "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood: Argumentative essay: Moira as a symbolic character of hope to the main character

768 words - 3 pages Independence is what teenagers strive for while going through adolescence. Once achieved, this right of passage is one of the most difficult to surrender. Such strong defiance and independence is shown in Margaret Atwood's, "The Handmaid's Tale", through the minor character of Moira. This character is referred to throughout the novel as strong-willed and independent until Offred finds her near the end, different and broken. Through Moira, Atwood

Book Report to the Class on A HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood. May want to add more about the themes and take out some of the plot description

1071 words - 4 pages Margaret Atwood, born in Ontario in 1939, has written several books, not just The Handmaid's Tale. Her most acclaimed novels were The Edible Women, which was her first novel, and was published in 1969 to wide acclaim, and The Blind Assassin, which won Great Britain's Booker Prize for Literature in the year 2000. However, her most widely known book is The Handmaid's Tale, which was published in 1986 and quickly became a best seller. It is now a

Similar Essays

Vision Of Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

1228 words - 5 pages Feminism in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood is a prominent theme. This novel represents the morals and horrors of a vision of feminism, which is sometimes taken to the extremes. Women’s rights have been downgraded and as a result of this women are used to bear children and are constantly watched by the eye. The Handmaids are considered powerful figures in the novels’ society while living in a dystopia of cultural

"The Handmaid's Tale" By Margaret Atwood

1764 words - 7 pages loss of individuality. Instead of being treated as individuals, citizens are treated as parts of a whole and are valued only for the way they can help maintain and strengthen their society. In The Handmaid's Tale, people are prevented from developing an identity by being given one by the government. Women especially, do not exist except as their jobs. In the upper class, for example, women function as either "Wives", "Marthas", or "Handmaids

"The Handmaid's Tale" By Margaret Atwood

1528 words - 6 pages English LiteratureThe Handmaids TaleWill society ever reach a point where it is considered the 'natural norm' by all, and therefore unable to undergo further change? It is impossible to imagine that such a point could ever exist, as all people would have different belief, values and expectations according to their past experiences. In The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, the oppressive Gilead regime enforces their new ideals on the

Group Analysis Of The Imagery, Symbolism, Figurative Language, Ironic Devices And More For "The Handmaid's Tale" By Margaret Atwood

2709 words - 11 pages Imagery: Throughout the novel, "The Handmaid's Tale", Margaret Atwood presents an astonishing amount of vivid imagery and description that makes up the style and flow of the novel. Perhaps the first images present in the novel are that of light and dark. Listed in the table of contents, the reader can see that nearly every other section is entitled Night. Night is usually associated with darkness and fear, although to Offred this connotation is