Major Themes of The Handmaid’s Tale
The republic of Gilead is a patriarchal regime and upon its rise to power, women are its first victims. The laws implemented by Gilead start by firing all women from their jobs, then transferring their funds to the male of the family, then depriving them from education. Even the Aunts who are the most powerful women in Gilead are inferior to the Guardians and the Angels who are allowed to carry real weaponry.
The most striking of all is the patriarchal view of women that is showcased by the way they are segregated; Marthas who are servants and maids, Econ-wives, Wives, Handmaids who bear children and Jezebels who are whores. The republic sees women as only good and fitting for these roles.
The republic of Gilead poses laws but does it actually abide by them itself? The most ironic thing is that women who were engaged in an affair with married men prior to the establishment of Gilead are punished and become Handmaids, but engaging in extramarital intercourse with a Handmaid for the sake of childbearing is somehow legal.
That being said, the Commander even takes the Handmaid to a brothel and has sensual intercourse with her aside from the Ceremony and even retains books and dresses and makeup from before Gilead. The Commander being the elite of Gilead always had answers like the fact that he is lonely or that it was simply alright for some people to retain illegal things.
Freedom is one of the main themes that Gilead twists to establish its theocracy. One of the Aunts brainwashes the handmaids into thinking that they actually have freedom, but of a different kind.
There is a distinction between freedom to and freedom from. Freedom to means liberty to do whatever you want and according the Aunt, that is pre-Gilead freedom where women ended up being raped or harassed or hurt. Instead the Aunt suggests that Gilead offers a freedom from all those things. Essentially Gilead appears to be the savior who put these women in this strict confinement so that they are safe from all the harm of freedom.
The eyes in any dystopian novel often resemble surveillance. Almost all authoritative and totalitarian governments watch the inhabitant’s every move and even plant manipulative spies. Offred is often paranoid of all her connections and thinks they are spying on her and sees eyes everywhere. This fear and paranoia is what keeps the citizens in check and works to prevent them from communicating freely.
The Color Red
The color red is often interpreted by Offred herself as color with an ambivalent nature. It is the color of the blood that keeps her alive and pumps through her veins but it is also the color of the blood that escapes one’s body and is often associated with acts of violence and death. Red is also a color that is often associated with fertility which symbolizes the Handmaids.