The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
In this story, chapter one in particular, amazes me on how laws and the life of women can change in an instant; from being free to do what one wants to having to say “we weren’t allowed out, except for our walks, twice daily, two by two” . How freedom can be snatched away by other human beings who, like all humans, should know better. To constrained a group of people and lock them up in a gymnasium against their will and the only thing that they can do in defiance is to “learned to lip-read….watching each other’s mouth. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed”.
In Chapter two, I see that the color red is significant. They way the narrator talks about it is intriguing. Because, when she is putting on the red gloves, she “pull them onto my hands, finger by finger” . It is like she is slowly transforming from her true inner self to the color red itself. Red is becoming her fingers. The shoes are red, these are her new toes and so is her dress, which becomes her new body.
It is as if red is her only identity now since in chapter one her name was nothing more than a mere whisper among lip-readers. The color red is louder than a whisper and it doesn’t make a sound. Red makes her seen. The color red defines her. Red is the mark of her status in this new world.
Once she puts on her uniform, she is less than the woman she was outside her uniform. In this uniform she is a machine. She cannot think. She is even more restricted now and have to follow a set of rules. She is not even a person. Her white head veil blocks her sight and keeps her from being seen. As if the only important thing to see is the color red and her body. Her body, because she is a handmaid and her main job is to bear children.
Her red outfit screams that loud and clear. Her red outfit is “the color of blood” . But, blood is the only thing that the handmaids don’t want to see. The leaders of that new world wants the handmaids in red, but if they have their periods and is not pregnant then they are in trouble. The narrator is no longer an individual. She is no longer her own woman. She is now red. Red is now she. Red is the color of her umbrella.
Red, is also, in her new name Offred. Red is so much of who she is in the beginning of this book. I wonder, will she make the color red her friend and use this color as a way to survive this terrible time in her life. Also, if she lives to see the end of this way of life, would she frame her red outfit and use it as a reminder to herself of how she once lived as a color and how precious life and freedom are. Will red become her favorite color?