As soon as reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood I get the feeling of new world and new rules. There is not too much explanation as to why things are how they are or why certain rules or circumstances exist. Although I find that odd to not give even the tiniest bit of backstory but it intrigues me.
The way the story is written so far helps me understand the feeling of “foreign,” not belonging almost but not quite. Offred quickly realizes that she is not welcome in the house that she now resides in. “So, you’re the new one, she said. She didn’t step aside to let me in, she just stood there in the doorway, blocking the entrance. She wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so.” (13) Long quote, yes I know. But the way this was worded is perfect to further describe the feeling of being alienated. The Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, made it known that a woman of her kind was not exactly welcomed but she also had no choice but to let her in. I myself as a woman felt so uncomfortable for both of these women just by how it was written. You could feel the awkwardness but you can also see how the Commander’s wife wanted her position to be known. Although I assume that was not necessary but because she felt vulnerable at that point she found the need to act out in that way.
Atwood throws the color red at us in many ways and in many parts of the book so far. Red symbolizes fertility or sexual sin as well like the Scarlet Letter. It also symbolizes blood I’m guessing to make a connection with what their “occupation” is and the color red. At a point of the story it is said, “The red of the smile is the same as the red of the tulips on Serena Joy’s garden, towards the base of the flowers where they are beginning to heal. The red is the same but there is no connection.” (33) This gave me the sense that she is struggling to keep the definition of what red is supposed to mean to her. “I put a lot of effort into making such distinctions. I need to make them. I need to be very clear, in my own mind.” (33) This quote just further shows that she still has not completely adapted to the lifestyle that she is now put into. She really is having a problem keeping things from intermixing. She needs to keep her ideas and what she is supposed to know completely separated from one another.
In parts 1-2 I also realized that for some reason the handmaid’s and the “martha’s” do not really get along. They don’t really interact with each other. They both are female servants of a kind but its like the Martha’s judge the handmaid’s for what they do. Rita , a martha says “she wouldn’t debase herself like that.” (10) So much for understanding each others struggles right? They both do what they think is best for themselves to survive in this world but they are being judged despite knowing that.