Handmaids Tale Symbolism

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What symbolic role does the color red play in the novel?
The color red symbolizes a lot of things in the Handmaid's Tale. The question is up to many different interpretations and one of the many includes women's fertility. Women in the society of Gilead are only valued based on their fertility and whether or not a woman is able to give birth to a healthy human life determines their ranking in the system. When Janine had given birth to “unbabies”, she was shamed at and her babies were deemed sinful. This goes to show that Gilead will only accept healthy babies or else women have no purpose as a handmaid. The act of conceiving a “proper” baby guarantees the handmaids from being deemed as an unwomen. On another note, the color red symbolizes death.
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All women are divided into different rankings based on their fertility. Atwood adds characters such as Janine, Moira, Ofglen, Ofwarren and Serena Joy in order to describe the difference in rankings between women and their beliefs on Gilead. For Janine, she played a crucial part in giving the readers an idea of how Gileadean society works when a women isn’t able to give birth to a “proper” child. Janine has had two “unbabies” and because of this, she was shamed at. Women are only valuable because they are vessels to reproduce and continue on the population. Janine’s situation goes to show that if you don’t have the perfect outcome, a normal baby, you are no better than the Econowives or the unwomen. On the contrary, the act of producing a healthy baby is seen as a blessing. When Ofwarren was first introduced at the market, strutting around with her baby bump (26), all the handmaids were jealous and some were excited for her. The act of having a baby with the Commanders gets you in a better position than if you weren’t pregnant. Handmaids are treated with the utmost care when they are in their pregnancy stages and for the handmaid themselves, they are able to have a sense of pride. Ofwarren leaving her home isn’t the ideal situation however, she went out anyways in order to show off her bump. Having a baby holds so much value in the Gileadean society that, when Offred was seen on the floor, Cora was distressed. (151) Cora’s assumption was that Offred was in the early stages of her pregnancy. Fear and excitement are the emotions expressed when a women is deemed pregnant. They are fearful of a miscarriage or an “unbaby” and are excited for the birth of a new human life. In the Gilead society, everyone has brainwashed with the strict rules and inhumane beliefs. They have altered people’s morals and turned their beliefs against themselves. People are submissive and have no will to openly rebel against the government.

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