The Red Symbol in The Handmaid's Tale

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In the dystopian novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" written by Margaret Atwood, the color red is a reoccurring, significant symbol throughout the book. The dominant color of the novel, the color red is paired with the Handmaids. The Handmaids are always seen in their red uniform, even down to their red shoes and red gloves. From the opening pages of the novel we are informed that they are trained at the “Red Centre,” and we are introduced to the importance of the red imagery as Offred, the narrator and protagonist of the novel, describes herself getting dressed: “The red gloves are lying on the bed. Everything except the wings around my face is red.” Which reveals to us how the handmaid’s are required to wear all red, representative of the way they are visually defined, and therefore confined within their role in the caste system as sexual servants to their Commanders. Red is worn only by the handmaids; the color red indicates sexuality, fertility and childbirth, accordingly outlining their function as a sexual object; their sole purpose being to bear children for their Commanders. One of the most reoccurring symbols throughout the novel, red is interrelated with all things female (the Handmaids.) Inversely, red is furthermore a symbol of death, violence and blood, which Offred portrays as a color which “defines us.” The reoccurring appearance of the color red creates a thought-provoking parallel between femininity and power, as it signifies the religious “sinfulness” of promiscuous sex between the handmaid’s and their “married” commander. Offred later states: “I never looked good in red, it’s not my color,” implying the sacrifice of her individuality due to the roles Gilead has forced her into. It is not their intellige... ... middle of paper ... ...ed tulips in place and keeping them alive, there are human beings under the white bags, but Offred is beginning to neglect what is under her red dress. Offred aches to reminisce about the life she once knew, yet now images are enforced into her mind and she understands them how her cult/society now requires her to perceive this different world. Red is a scandalous and dishonorable color, outlining the Handmaids as such. Everything correlated with the handmaids is red; Offred’s own name, for instance, which so distressingly epitomizes dualism can be read as "Of Fred," signifying her ownership to her commander-yet furthermore can be read as "Off Red,” suggesting off with the red dress, symbolizing her yearning for nonconformity from the red dress and all the afflictions correlated with red in her life- blood, death and violence, which have come to “define” her.
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