Also known as the Commander’s Wife, she is unable to have children and therefore requires Offred’s services. Before Gilead, she was a singer who became famous on TV for her emotional Christian music. She also used to give speeches about how women ought to be housewives. During the novel, she occupies her time gardening with Nick’s help, and knitting elaborate scarves for soldiers, despite her arthritis. For much of the novel, she resentfully ignores Offred, but towards the end she encourages Offred to try to get pregnant by having sex with Nick.
The timeline below shows where the character Serena Joy appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Offred recalls five weeks ago, when she arrived at the house. In her flashback, Serena Joy herself, identifiable by her blue Commander’s Wife robes, opens the door. Offred remembers Aunt Lydia’s... (full context)
...the eye-like mirror. She kneels in the sitting room. The room is luxuriously decorated in Serena Joy ’s mixed style of quality and sentimentality. Serena Joy’s perfume, Lily of the Valley, smells... (full context)
...his foot to Offred’s. Nick touches again and Offred moves again, unsure of his intentions. Serena Joy arrives in a flower-trimmed dress, but Offred thinks that Serena Joy should accept that she’s... (full context)
...the present time, the Commander finishes reading. Offred imagines the bible pages feeling powder-paper makeup. Serena Joy silently cries. As Offred prays “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum,” she remembers seeing Moira carried to... (full context)
After coming, the Commander leaves quickly and politely, which Offred finds somehow funny. Serena Joy makes Offred leave immediately, although she’s supposed to lie down for ten minutes to increase... (full context)
...previously instructed her. Offred is powerfully aware of the illegality of this action, and how Serena Joy would punish her. Still, Offred knows that she now has some amount of power over... (full context)
...now it’s summertime, and the tulips are gone. Returning from a grocery trip, Offred sees Serena Joy cutting off the tulips’ seed pods, destroying the fruit to make next year’s flowers better.... (full context)
...Offred walks by, or wearing his hat incorrectly. Offred finds it difficult to sneak around Serena Joy , and sometimes can’t make the appointments. Sometimes Serena Joy goes out at night to... (full context)
...dressed again in her red robe. The searchlights are off, fortunately or maybe on purpose. Serena Joy comes at midnight and leads her through the house, and gives her instructions on getting... (full context)
...a reconstruction and “the way love feels is always approximate.” During the sex, she imagined Serena Joy judging her for being easy. Afterward, she felt she’d betrayed Luke by responding so enthusiastically. (full context)
...in front of the Commander, or hang herself in the closet. She also imagines kicking Serena Joy in the head, just like Ofglen did at the Particicution. She imagines walking calmly into... (full context)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale
Both Judd and Waterford were sterile. Waterford’s wife Thelma had worked on television like Serena Joy . Waterford seems to be more likely to be the Commander. The authorities killed him... (full context)