The Handmaid's Tale: The Class Distinction and Function of Society based on Colour

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Imagine living in a world where the colour of your clothing gave away every detail about your life; how you lived, who you lived with and your role in society. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood is a futuristic dystopian novel. It explores the reversal of women’s rights and depicts gender inequality within a frightening and controlled society characterized by the use of colour. Colour carries a strong message to the reader through the powerful significance of colour differences associated between genders, the characters’ clothing, symbolism, its use as a class designation, the intonation it has on one’s self, and others, and the existence of flower imagery. In the Society of Gilead, people within a common distinction or group dress the same. The clothing that is worn by this particular group of people represents a status. Once you have been assigned a role, it is near impossible to change it. The role includes your position and your duties in the society. With this being set in stone the freedom has been taken away, essentially, forever. The roles of women are primarily based upon their ability to conceive. Women can be categorized as Handmaid’s Marthas, Wives, Aunts, and Econowives. The categorization of these women determines their social status, therefore determining their colour classifications. The colours chosen for women throughout the novel vary from red, light green, light blue, stripes of the three, and light brown. The similarity between these colours is that fact that they are all light. The light colours group women as one, but the individual colours completely separate them. Outfits of the women are light in colour to be interpreted as a lacking sign of power and stripping of rights. Everything for the women i... ... middle of paper ... ...d decrease as well, shown through the colouring of their clothing. “...[the] usual Martha’s dress, which is all green, like a surgeon’s gown... [Marthas put] put on the veil to go outside, but nobody much cares who sees the face of a Martha.” (Attwood 10) Marthas wear light green and when in public their faces are covered with white as well. This green represents the poverty of Marthas and their low social status compared to others. With it being stated that no one cares to see their face, the green truly does prove their low social status. Green could also symbolize jealous that they feel towards Handmaids as well because just like Wives they cannot bear children. Green is universally known as an environmental and clean colour. This too could be represented through the Marthas wearing green because it represents their duties and their function in society as maids.

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