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

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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 direc...

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... responsible for conceiving and giving birth for a Commander and his wife wear red. The Commander's wives wear blue which is the most prestigious color worn by a woman. Guardians, as well as Martha's, wear green, which is not an authoritive color, putting them in a lower class. White is the color to be worn only by the virgin daughters until they are given to a soldier to marry. Econowives are wearing dresses that are mixed colors because they have multiple functions and little value. The Republic of Gilead believes in showing levels of hierarchy, by the color of clothing worn.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1986.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Cliff Notes on Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Lincoln: Cliff Notes, Inc., 1994.

Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988.

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