Fertility and Motherhood in The Handmaid´s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood sheds light on two concepts that are intertwined; fertility and motherhood. Nevertheless in Gilead these notions are often viewed as separate. The Republic State of Gilead views women as child-bearers and nothing more. In Gilead, these women are known as handmaids, who’s function in society is to produce children for barren females of a high status. Gilead also prohibits the handmaids from being mothers to their previously born children, meaning before Gilead was created, for instance, Offred, who is separated from her daughter. Thus it is evident that Margaret Atwood generates a state that views birth only as growth in population rather than the beginning of a relationship between mother and child.

The epigraph in The
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Atwood further magnifies the importance of fertility through the colour red. The handmaids’s clothes are red, thus symbolzing their fertility. This colour defines the women and their primary function in Gilead’s society. The red symbolises the menstrual cycle thus it exhibits failure, ‘each month I watch for blood, fearfully, for when it comes it means failure’. In addition the flowers symbolize fertility. Margaret Atwood gives importance to flowers since they are objects that can bloom and grow and hold the reproductive organs, thus they are a constant reminder of the fertility that most women lack. Serena Joy is infertile and her taking care of her garden shows that is the only way she can compensate for her failure. The flowers surrounding the house are a substitute for the lack of human life and birth, so the flowers growing can be seen as a substitute for a child growing.

Child production has become Gilead’s main function and it is not taking into account the traditional ideas about parenting and family. The handmaids need to produce babies, it is not a matter of wanting or not, or they essentially get a death sentence, however they do not get to keep the child. Thus Gilead is not only dismembering women, making them think that they are important because of their ability to reproduce only but they take away their

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