The colour of the handmaid’s dresses is very significant to their purpose. Everything they were is red, red being the colour of fertility and life, which is really what the handmaids stand for. The whole society is relying on the fertility of these women, and there are frequent references to other everyday things, which also stand as symbols of fertility, like the Commander’s wife tending to her garden. A garden that could be viewed as a place full of fertility and life. This scene could also be seen as ironic, as the Commander’s wife is in fact infertile.
All the different members of the society wear different colours to show their status. The colour sequence runs parallel to the ranking order amongst the society. The commanders wear black, which symbolises their power and status. The commander’s wives are dressed in blue. This colour represents the cold and emptiness that the infertile wives have. The other main symbolic colour is the red of the handmaids, and as previously said this shows their fertility. The society is very patriarchal and the men have a totally different set of rule to the women.
These rules are again another similarity to the Islamic faith. In chapter eight, the Commander breaks a rule, by entering Offred’s room, but there is nothing that Offred can do about it, as she would have no one to tell, as the Commander is the person she would report such a thing to. Also women’s views are taken so usuriously, that even if she was to report him to someone, she would have to have another woman’s evidence to back I up, as the society wouldn’t trust a woman just on her own. Nick also breaks rules by flirting with Offred.
Offred knows that he is doing something wrong by doing this, but even if she wanted to, there is nothing she could do about it. She wouldn’t report him, “Perhaps he is an Eye”. We never find out if these “eyes” really exist, but they exist in Offred’s mind, so they are real to her. In chapter five, Offred and her shopping partner are confronted by a group of Japanese tourists who look upon the women as though they are animals a zoo. This shows that the conditions of population decline are not going on in other parts of the world. This is also another example of how, despite trying to resist the indoctrination, it has got her.
She is disgusted at the way the female tourist are dressed “we are fascinated, but also repelled”. These tourists aren’t dressed any differently to how Offred would have dressed her self a few years ago “I used to dress like that”, but the indoctrination has made her feel that it is the wrong way to dress. The women also represent the forbidden lust in the society “darkness and sexuality” “they wear lipstick, red”. The society has set out to make the handmaids feel nothing, so they are just “vessels” for the needs of the republic.
Not only are they not allowed to read, the republic has tried to block out all other senses also “I hunger to commit the act of touch”. Lust is strictly forbidden, as is any type felling towards another being. Although sexual actions are strictly forbidden, Offred still feels that she has some control over lower ranking males such as guardians “I enjoy the power”. Even the feeling of friendship has been ruled out. When Offred talks to Ofglen, it is like they are reading from a scrip and the conversation as no feeling of any description ” `blessed be the fruit,’ she says, the accepted greeting among us”.