If you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” then you’re no stranger to the symbolic use of color throughout the novel. Perhaps one of the most striking colors used throughout the story is red. In this dystopian world, the color red is heavily associated with the handmaids who are forced into sexual servitude for wealthy families. But what exactly does the color red symbolize in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and what deeper meaning does it hold for the story’s themes?
Red is used as a symbol of oppression in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The handmaids, who wear crimson robes and white wings, are forced to conceive and carry children for their wealthy owners. Red, in this sense, represents the shame and humiliation that the women in this caste society are subjected to. But at the same time, the color red also conveys a sense of power and resilience. In a world where women are denied basic human rights, the handmaids, through their red robes, become a symbol of rebellion and defiance that cannot be ignored.
The use of the color red in “The Handmaid’s Tale” offers a powerful commentary on the state of women’s rights, both in the fictional world of Gilead and in the real world. Through this symbolic use of color, Atwood reminds us of the importance of resistance and solidarity in the face of oppression. Red, in all its complexity, becomes a reminder of what we must do to fight back against those who seek to control and silence us.
The association of red with passion and desire
Red is a prominent color in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, symbolizing passion, desire, and power. Throughout the story, the color red is used to evoke strong emotions and convey deeper meanings.
Here are some examples of how the color red is associated with passion and desire:
- The handmaids’ red robes: The red robes worn by the handmaids represent their fertility and sexuality. They serve as a reminder of their duty to bear children for the ruling class. The vivid color also brings attention to them, making them easily identifiable in public, perhaps as a way to shame them for their supposed promiscuity.
- The red dress: Serena Joy’s red dress symbolizes her past as a powerful televangelist and a symbol of her current power over the handmaid, Offred. The dress is a sharp contrast to the handmaids’ red robes, indicating her elevated social status and her ability to act on her own desires.
- The red tulips: When Offred encounters red tulips in the garden outside the Commander’s house, a symbol of forbidden love, they stir within her forgotten emotions of passion and desire.
The association of red with passion and desire is further emphasized through its juxtaposition with other colors. For instance, the sterile white of the Wives’ dresses and the green of the Marthas’ clothing emphasize their lack of sexuality or fertility.
|Passion and Desire
|Sterility and Asexuality
The use of color in The Handmaid’s Tale is just one way Atwood creates a rich and complex symbolic world that intensifies our understanding of the dystopian reality Offred lives in.
Red as a Symbol of Blood and Sacrifice
In the dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the color red serves as a visual representation of both blood and sacrifice. The handmaids are forced to wear a bright red uniform, which symbolizes their fertility and their role as reproductive vessels. However, the color also alludes to the tragedy and violence that takes place in their lives.
The following are some examples of how red represents blood and sacrifice in the story:
- The handmaids’ red uniform is similar to the color of menstrual blood, which highlights the theme of female reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
- The Aunts, who are responsible for training and disciplining the handmaids, wear brown instead of red, indicating that they do not bleed or bear children. This further emphasizes the contrast between the two groups and the importance of fertility in their society.
- During the birth ceremony, the handmaids are surrounded by red curtains, and their bloodied bedsheets are shown as proof of their successful conception. This enforces the idea that their primary purpose is to bear children for their assigned Commander and his wife.
To further illustrate the symbolism of red, let’s take a closer look at the birth ceremony. In this event, the Commander and his wife are positioned at the head of the bed, while the handmaid is in the middle. The handmaid’s head is covered with a red veil, and her body is draped in red cloth. The ceremony is designed to be a solemn and sacred ritual, with the presence of the Wife and the Aunt acting as witnesses. The red veil and cloth serve as a reminder of the handmaid’s vulnerability and her willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good. Her body is literally being used as a vessel to create life, and the implication is that this is the only way for her to gain value or significance in this society.
|Symbolizes fertility and reproductive role of handmaids
|Symbolizes the bloody and painful process of childbirth
|Red Veil and Cloth
|Symbolizes the handmaid’s sacrifice and vulnerability
The color red in The Handmaid’s Tale is thus a potent symbol of blood and sacrifice, reminding us of the extreme measures that the handmaids must take to serve their society. The use of red evokes a sense of danger and urgency, highlighting the volatility of the regime and the repercussions of dissent. Ultimately, the color serves as a powerful visual cue that reinforces the themes of oppression and resistance that run through the story.
The contrast between the Handmaids’ red robes and the drab clothing of the other women in the novel
The Handmaids are the only women in the Republic of Gilead allowed to wear color, and their red robes serve as a stark contrast to the drab clothing worn by the other women in the novel. This contrast serves as a visual representation of the difference in status and power between the Handmaids and the rest of the female population in Gilead.
- The other women in the novel, such as the Wives and Marthas, wear dull, gray clothing, emphasizing their subservient roles in society.
- Even the female Guardians, who hold more power than the other women, wear dark uniforms that blend into the background.
- The Handmaids’ robes, on the other hand, are bright and attention-grabbing, symbolizing their unique position as child-bearers and their potential reproductive abilities.
The color red also has multiple symbolic meanings in the novel, further emphasizing the contrast between the Handmaids and the other women. Red is associated with passion, love, and fertility, contrasting sharply with the themes of repression, infertility, and coldness that pervade the society of Gilead.
This contrast between the Handmaids’ red robes and the drab clothing of the other women highlights the power dynamic at play in Gilead and reinforces the idea that the Handmaids are not like any other women in this dystopian world.
Red used to represent the oppressive regime of Gilead
In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the color red is used as a symbol of the oppressive regime of Gilead. Here are some of the ways in which red is used to represent this regime:
- The handmaids’ red robes: The handmaids, who are forced to bear children for the ruling class, wear bright red robes that cover them from head to toe. This uniform makes them easily identifiable as handmaids and highlights their subservient status. It also represents the fact that they are reduced to their reproductive role, as the color red is often associated with fertility and menstruation.
- The red tulips: The ruling class in Gilead decorates their homes with red tulips, which are a symbol of their power and wealth. The fact that the tulips are red reinforces the idea that this power is built on the backs of the handmaids and other oppressed groups. The flowers are beautiful but ultimately hollow symbols of a corrupt society.
- The red center: The training center where handmaids are brainwashed and prepared for their new roles is known as the “Red Center.” This name emphasizes the role that red plays in reinforcing the ideology of Gilead. The handmaids are trained to see themselves as nothing more than vessels for bearing children, and the color red is a constant reminder of this.
Overall, the color red is used in The Handmaid’s Tale to underscore the oppressive nature of the society depicted in the novel. Whether it is the handmaids’ robes, the ruling class’s tulips, or the name of the training center, the color red serves as a constant reminder of the brutal regime that has taken over America.
As readers, we are forced to confront the fact that Atwood’s use of the color red is not merely a literary device, but a reflection of real-world situations in which women are reduced to their reproductive functions and treated as second-class citizens. The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful reminder that we must remain vigilant against such regimes and work to ensure that everyone’s rights and freedoms are respected.
The Handmaids’ red veils as a symbol of their lack of agency and individuality
One of the most distinctive images from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the red veil worn by the handmaids. This iconic garment has come to represent many things, but perhaps its most powerful symbol is the lack of agency and individuality experienced by these women.
Throughout the novel, the handmaids are seen as interchangeable pieces in a wider political game, used as vessels to bear children for the ruling elite. The red veil is meant to obscure their faces and identities, reducing them to little more than walking wombs in the eyes of their masters.
- Red: Symbol of Power and Control
- The Loss of Identity and Agency
- Religious Significance
By dressing the handmaids in such a stark uniform, the rulers of Gilead are literally robbing them of their individuality and forcing them to conform to a particular ideal. They are not allowed to express themselves through their clothing or personal style, but must instead wear the red veil and long, shapeless dresses that mark them out as handmaids.
At the same time, the veil acts as a sign of the power and control that the rulers wield over their subjects. By forcing the handmaids to wear the veil, they are asserting their dominance and making it clear that the women are owned by the state and are subject to its whims and fancies.
|Symbolism of the Handmaids’ Red Veils
|Loss of identity
|The veil obscures the handmaids’ faces, making it difficult to distinguish them from one another. This reinforces the idea that they are interchangeable and reduces their individuality.
|Control and ownership
|The rulers of Gilead use the veil to assert their power over the handmaids and remind them of their subservient status.
|The veil has a long history in many religious traditions as a symbol of modesty and submission. In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” it serves a similar purpose, reinforcing the strict patriarchal values of Gilead.
Finally, the religious connotations of the red veil cannot be ignored. In many religious traditions, the veil is used as a symbol of modesty and submission, emphasizing the subservience of women to men. In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the veil serves a similar purpose, reinforcing the strict patriarchal values of Gilead and reminding the handmaids of their secondary status in the eyes of the state.
All in all, the handmaids’ red veils are a powerful symbol of the loss of agency and individuality experienced by these women. Through this garment, Atwood illustrates the ways in which oppressive regimes seek to dehumanize and control their subjects, using clothing and other symbols to strip away their identities and render them powerless.
The Red Tulips in the Commander’s Garden as a Symbol of Forbidden Pleasure
In the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the color red is heavily symbolic. It is associated with danger, passion, and, most notably, the handmaids themselves. However, in the Commander’s garden, the red tulips take on a specific symbolic meaning – that of forbidden pleasure.
The garden is a space of hidden indulgence and excess for the Commanders and their wives. It is a place where they can forget the oppressive regime they are a part of and indulge in the pleasures that are forbidden to the rest of society. The red tulips are a physical embodiment of this indulgence. They are a symbol of passion and pleasure, but also of rebellion and defiance.
- The red tulips are a stark contrast to the subdued colors of the handmaids’ clothing and the sterile environment they live in. They represent a world that is full of color and life, a world that is forbidden to the handmaids.
- The handmaids, who are the embodiment of purity and chastity in this society, are forbidden from indulging in any physical pleasure, including sex and even touching themselves. The red tulips, with their vivid color and sensuous shape, serve as a reminder of what the handmaids are missing out on.
- The red tulips also symbolize the hypocrisy of the Commander and his wife. They are the ones who have access to this forbidden pleasure, even though it is officially forbidden for everyone else. The red tulips are a visual reminder of the privilege and power that the ruling class holds over the rest of society.
The red tulips in the Commander’s garden serve as a potent symbol of the forbidden pleasure that is denied to the handmaids. They represent passion and indulgence, but also the hypocrisy and power dynamics that underpin this society. They are a reminder of the world that the handmaids have lost, and what they are fighting to regain.
|The color red is associated with danger in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale.
|Red is also associated with passion and sensuality.
|The red tulips in the Commander’s garden symbolize the forbidden pleasures that are denied to the rest of society.
|The red tulips also symbolize rebellion and defiance.
The symbolism of the red tulips in The Handmaid’s Tale highlights the many ways in which power and privilege are used to control and oppress others, and serves as a potent reminder of the importance of fighting for freedom and equality.
The use of red in the Eyes’ uniforms to symbolize their violence and authority
In Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the color red symbolizes the oppressive regime’s use of violence to maintain its authority. The Eyes, the regime’s security force, wear all black uniforms with red armbands, indicating their rank and their power.
- The use of red in the Eyes’ uniforms is a deliberate choice to instill fear in the citizens of Gilead.
- The red armbands worn by the Eyes are a visual reminder of the regime’s violent tendencies and their willingness to use force to maintain power.
- The Eyes’ uniforms are also a symbol of their authority and the fear they inspire in the citizens of Gilead.
Through the use of red in the Eyes’ uniforms, Atwood creates a visual representation of the regime’s brutal tactics and their dominance over the populace.
Moreover, the color red is used to represent the bloodshed that has occurred under the regime’s rule. It serves as a reminder of the violence inherent in the system; the toll it has taken on the citizens of Gilead.
|Symbolism of Red in the Eyes’ Uniform
|Red in the Eyes’ uniform symbolizes the use of force and brutality to maintain control.
|The red armbands worn by the Eyes represent their rank and power within the regime.
|The color red also represents the bloodshed that has occurred under the regime’s rule.
The use of red in the Eyes’ uniforms is a powerful symbol in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” It is a visual representation of the regime’s oppressive tactics, their willingness to use violence to maintain control, and the bloodshed that has occurred under their rule.
The Handmaids’ monthly “ceremony” as a ritualized ritual centered around the color red
In the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the color red is symbolic of many things. It represents the Handmaids’ fertility, their menstrual cycle, their oppression, and their subjugation. One of the most powerful examples of how the color red is used in the story is during the Handmaids’ monthly “ceremony.” This ritualized ritual is a disturbing and graphic depiction of how far the society has gone in controlling and regulating the Handmaids’ bodies.
- The Ceremony is an event that takes place every month in which the Handmaids are called upon to reproduce. They are required to take part in a sexual encounter with their assigned Commander while the Commander’s Wife watches.
- The Handmaids are dressed in long red robes that cover their bodies from head to toe, symbolizing their fertility and the importance of their role in society.
- The sheets on the bed that the Handmaid and the Commander are on are red, representing the blood of the Handmaid’s menstrual cycle and the potential of conception.
The Handmaids’ monthly Ceremony is a powerful example of how colors are used symbolically in The Handmaid’s Tale. The color red is used to represent the Handmaids’ oppression and trauma, and how their fertility has been commodified by the society. The Ceremony serves as a reminder of how far the Gilead regime has gone in controlling every aspect of the Handmaids’ lives, including their bodies and their sexuality.
This ritualized ritual was designed to strip the Handmaids of their humanity and reduce them to nothing more than vessels for reproduction. The color red, with all its complex symbolism, serves as a harsh reminder of the tragedy and the horror of their existence.
|Handmaids’ fertility and the importance of their role in society
|Blood of Handmaid’s menstrual cycle and the potential of conception
In conclusion, the color red plays a significant role in The Handmaid’s Tale, especially in the Handmaids’ monthly “ceremony.” Its rich symbolism speaks volumes about the oppressive and dystopian society in which the characters find themselves. The Handmaids’ monthly Ceremony shows us how colors can be used powerfully to convey emotions and deep meanings, even in the darkest and most horrifying of stories.
The Significance of Offred’s Red Shoes as a Remnant of Her Old Life
Offred’s red shoes are a constant reminder of her past life before the Gilead regime took over. She wears them as a form of rebellion and as a way to hold onto her identity.
The color red symbolizes passion and power, but it also represents danger and bloodshed. In The Handmaid’s Tale, red is the color of the Handmaids’ robes, which symbolize fertility and the ability to bear children. It is also the color of the Aunts’ dresses, which represent authority and control.
Offred’s red shoes stand out in a society where individuality is discouraged and everyone is expected to blend in. The shoes are a form of self-expression and defiance against the strict dress code. They are also a link to her past and a symbol of her former life where she was free to wear what she wanted.
Ways Offred’s Red Shoes Symbolize Her Resistance
- They are a visual reminder of her past life and identity outside of the strict societal confines of Gilead.
- They represent rebelliousness and non-conformity in a society where such traits are not tolerated.
- They are a declaration of her resistance against the regime, a subtle way to show that she still has autonomy over her own body and life.
The Symbolic Meaning of Red
Red has always been a powerful color in literature and art, evoking strong emotions and associations. In The Handmaid’s Tale, red takes on a multitude of meanings, depending on the context. It can symbolize fertility, passion, power, and rebellion, but also danger and bloodshed. The color is used to underscore the themes of the novel and to convey the complex emotions of the characters.
Offred’s red shoes are just one example of the symbolism of red in the novel. From the Handmaids’ red robes to the blood on the wall, the color is a powerful motif that highlights the novel’s themes of oppression, resistance, and rebellion.
Offred’s Red Shoes and the Themes of the Novel
Offred’s red shoes are more than just footwear. They represent the struggle for identity and autonomy in a world that seeks to erase individuality and enforce conformity. The shoes symbolize the tension between the past and present, and the desire to hold onto the former while navigating the latter.
|Symbolism of Red Shoes
|The shoes represent the oppression of a society that seeks to control every aspect of individuals’ lives.
|The shoes symbolize the resistance against the regime and the desire to hold onto one’s identity.
|The shoes stand for Offred’s individual identity and her struggle to maintain it in a world that seeks to erase it.
Offred’s red shoes are one of the many potent symbols in The Handmaid’s Tale, and they contribute to the novel’s themes of oppression, resistance, and identity. They are a constant reminder of the past, a declaration of rebellion, and a symbol of hope for a better future.
The Handmaids’ reluctance to wear red after the resistance movement begins
In The Handmaid’s Tale, the color red plays a significant role in the story’s symbolism. It represents the Handmaids’ role as fertility vessels for the ruling class of men. However, after the formation of the resistance movement against the oppressive regime, the Handmaids begin to resist wearing the color red.
- Red was once a symbol of power: The Handmaids wore it to show that they were the highest-ranking members of the ruling elite’s reproductive hierarchy.
- Red becomes a symbol of oppression: After the resistance movement began, the Handmaids began to see the color red as a reminder of their subjugation to the ruling class, rather than a symbol of power.
- The Handmaids express their resistance through dress: The Handmaids’ decision to wear alternative colors or cover their red garments with cloaks displays their reluctance to be identified as part of the oppressive system they once served.
The Handmaids’ shift away from red is a powerful symbol of the women’s fight against their oppressors. It represents their growing sense of self-determination and their desire to reclaim their own identities and bodies. By rejecting the color red, the Handmaids symbolically reject their role as mere vessels for reproduction and instead embrace their autonomy and humanity.
|Power, fertility, and oppression
|Freedom, self-determination, and rebellion
|Concealment, secrecy, and protection
The Handmaids’ reluctance to wear red after the resistance movement begins is a powerful symbol of their growing sense of autonomy and determination. By challenging the system that once controlled them, they assert their right to freedom and raise their voices against oppression. Through their clothing choices, the Handmaids represent the struggle for autonomy and the fight against all forms of oppression, gendered or otherwise.
What Does the Color Red Symbolize in The Handmaid’s Tale?
1. What is the significance of the red robes worn by the handmaids?
The red robes worn by the handmaids in The Handmaid’s Tale symbolize their role as reproductive vessels in a dystopian society. It also represents their purity and fertility.
2. Why is the color red associated with danger and violence in the novel?
The color red is associated with danger and violence in The Handmaid’s Tale because it represents the bloodshed and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom from the oppressive regime.
3. Why is the color red so prominent in the novel’s imagery?
The color red is a prominent motif in The Handmaid’s Tale because it represents the enslaved status of the handmaids and the bloodshed and violence that they and others have endured under the regime.
4. Why do the handmaids wear red wings in the novel?
The handmaids wear red wings in The Handmaid’s Tale to further emphasize their fertility and reproductive role in society.
5. Does the color red have any religious significance in the novel?
The color red has religious significance in The Handmaid’s Tale, as it is associated with both the martyrs who fought for religious freedom and with the Handmaids’ position as religiously-sanctioned reproductive vessels.
6. What does the red room symbolize in the novel?
The red room in The Handmaid’s Tale symbolizes the handmaid’s captivity and isolation, as well as the dangers they face in their role as reproductive vessels.
7. Why is the handmaid’s robe the only red garment they are allowed to wear?
The handmaid’s red robe is the only red garment they are allowed to wear because it signifies their enslavement and their reproductive role in society. It is a way of identifying them as subjugated individuals.
Thank you for reading this article about what the color red symbolizes in The Handmaid’s Tale. The symbolism of red in the novel is not only visually striking but also carries significant emotional weight. From the handmaids’ red robes to the red room and the violence associated with the color, red represents themes of oppression, captivity, and sacrifice. We hope you have enjoyed learning about the role of red in this classic dystopian novel and invite you to visit again for more literary analysis.