In Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale I can’t help but notice how the protagonist, Offred, has such attention to the smallest details. She describes every little thing in such beautiful detail and color, “around the edges; the flower borders, in which the daffodils are now fading and the tulips are opening their cups, spilling out color. The tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem, as if they have been cut and are beginning to heal there” (12). I guess she has no other choice, but to notice such things. Her life seems so dull and empty, in contrast to the flowers. They remind her about her past life, when he had her own garden, where she grew her own flowers and she had freedom to do as she wanted and touch and smell and live. These flowers bring out felling, which she has to constantly compress in herself, ” I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs help in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers” (12).
Offred is kept in a constant state of fear by almost all the people surrounding her. It could be by the Commander’s wife or even by young guardians, ” The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns” (20). She is always prepared for the worst, and is always reminded that she might not survive, ” Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thrones. Some of you are shallow-rooted.” (18). Why does Aunt Lydia make her memorize this, what does she really mean when saying that not all of them will make it through?
Through out the novel Offred is reminiscing on her past possessions like the shorts and jeans, which she bought with her own money. She would put on what she wanted and bought what she wished, but now she is dressed in only a red, covering most of her body parts, including her face. Offred’s face is covered with white wigs keeping her even from seeing. She remembers not only her clothes, but even the plastic shopping bags in her kitchen, “I hated to waste them and would stuff them in under the sink, until the day would come when there would be too many” (27). It is in these memories she realizes how she would take things for granted, “it is true, i took too much for granted; I trusted fate, back then” (27). It feels as though she is in a constant state of sadness and sorrow. I wonder what it is that keeps her and the other handmaids going and living in such a terrifying environment. What are they hoping for? That one day they will be able to return to her past life, to the people they miss and love or that one day they will gain their freedom back? What is it these girls need to accomplish in order to get released or is there really no way out for them? Maybe they will be kept as slaves for the rest of their lives.