The color red appears constantly in the novel. Red is the color of the Handmaids, a color associated both with shame (think of The Scarlet Letter) and with ripeness and fertility. Offred expands the color’s symbolic power, using it to describe blood, sometimes as the life force that courses through her body, and sometimes as a marker of violence and death, like the blood on the executed criminals. One of the most common uses of the color is to describe the tulips in Serena Joy’s garden. The flowers are sex organs, but their flourishing will be futile, since Serena Joy snips off their fruits.
The Color Red Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale
The The Handmaid’s Tale quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Color Red. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:).
Chapter 1 Quotes
We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?
Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Color Red
Page Number and Citation:
Explanation and Analysis:
The Color Red Symbol Timeline in The Handmaid’s Tale
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Color Red appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The bell rings to mark time, like in a nunnery, and Offred puts on her red uniform, including shoes, gloves, and a long modest dress. She wears... (full context)
Offred walks through the house, a stately, traditional home with many restrictions. She’s not allowed to... (full context)
Offred walks through the garden on the way to the shops. The red tulips have bloomed... (full context)
Offred waits at the corner, recalling Aunt Lydia’s advice to be patient and to imagine herself... (full context)
A group of possibly Japanese tourists approaches on the street. Offred stares at the women’s knee-length skirts and high heels, thinking that the shoes look like... (full context)
Offred and Ofglen go to look at the real source of their interest, the red-brick Wall.... (full context)
At Offred’s house, Nick polishes the Commander’s Whirlwind. The red tulips look like empty chalices, and Offred... (full context)
Offred went to the doctor yesterday morning for her regular monthly checkup. She remembers the appointment... (full context)
Back in the present time, Offred thinks about her body, her blood like red waves, and her failure to become pregnant.... (full context)
Offred returns to her bedroom and finds her pat of butter half-melted in her shoe. She... (full context)
Offred believes in several different fates for Luke. First she imagines Luke as a corpse lying... (full context)
A red van, a Birthmobile, comes to the house to pick up Offred. A Guardian drives her... (full context)
All of a sudden, Offred starts laughing uncontrollably. She desperately tries to be quiet, hiding herself in the closet, her... (full context)