Essay on Appearance versus Reality in The Handmaids Tale

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Appearance versus Reality in The Handmaids Tale


Imagery is an effective element used by writers. It allows readers to be one with the story and to better comprehend the actions and thoughts conveyed by the author. In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaids Tale, actions and images of Offred and other individuals parallel with the theme of appearance versus reality. These images such as food and nature are reoccurring to further stress the theme. The gustatory and olfactory images of food and perfume, as well as the kinesthetic and visual imagery of cutting flowers and sexual intercourse juxtapose the discontentment of Offred's life as a handmaid.


            Food is a
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As Offred "breathe[s] in , thinking .. [she] should appreciate" every moment, the reader also takes deep breathes, and understands the calmness and happiness she undergoes (103). Though the olfactory and gustatory images that Atwood writes in her novel initially suggest the happiness and content of the handmaids, further analysis of the images and of Offred's perceptiveness tell the tale of an somber handmaid.


            The irises also provide some olfactory imagery along with much visual imagery, but the kinesthetic actions by Serena Joy is the utmost image of reality. "The irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, ... like pastel water, ... light blue, light mauve, ... velvet and purple," seem to represent beauty and happiness, but in actuality, represents sorrow and unhappiness (196). As the image of Serena Joy cutting and trimming her garden is visualized, this subtle kinesthetic image parallels the dismemberment and decay of Offred's internal existence. The power she once had standing tall has now been cut down by Serena and society. Another kinesthetic image is during the mating seen. Though Nick merely "breathes, almost into [her] ear, ...[she] wanted to reach up, taste his skin... it [felt] so good to

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