The Handmaid's Tale: Metaphor Analysis

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Scrabble
The games of Scrabble that Offred plays with the Commander are symbolic in the sense that they are competitions over language, the creation of words. Whoever is most skilful at creating words wins the game. This is a metaphor for the way that the Gilead authorities manipulate the masses through language, most it based on Biblical ideas or names. Vicious enforcers of the regime are called Guardians of the Faith, for example. Women are deprived of individuality by being named solely in terms of their relationship with men (Of-fred). Terms like Unwomen and Unbaby also show how language can be manipulated to fit a political ideology. Scrabble may be a harmless game, but in real life the forces that can control language can control society.
Cigarettes
Cigarettes are associated in Offred's mind with freedom and "the time before." She was in the act of buying cigarettes when she discovered that her Compunumber had been cancelled and she was no longer permitted to possess money. In her memories of times she has spent with Moira, Moira is usually smoking, and she often cadges cigarettes from Offred; it is a sign of their easy friendship. Characteristically, Moira is smoking a cigarette when Offred first sees her in Jezebel's, and when they meet in the washroom, Moira borrows a cigarette from one of the other women and gives it to Offred.
The first signs of an attraction between Nick and Offred is associated with cigarette smoke. When she sees him polishing the car and smoking, it suggests to her that he has at least some kind of freedom, since cigarettes can be traded on the black market. When Offred feels attracted to him, she thinks of how he might smell, "tanned skin, moist in the sun, filmed with smoke" (ch. 4). And in in each version she writes of her sexual encounter with him, cigarettes play a part, as when she smells the smoke on him and in the room, or they share a cigarette (chs. 40-41). Cigarettes are therefore associated with lost freedoms and illicit pleasures.
Red
Red is the color of the Handmaids' uniforms. Red signifies fertility, since it is associated with the blood of the menstrual cycle, indicating the ability to bear children. Red is associated with sexuality, in contrast to the chaste blue worn by the Wives. Red also has an association with sexual sin, and it is as well to remember that the Handmaids, despite the elaborate ceremony and ideological justifications, are in fact engaged in adultery with the Commanders. Red also symbolizes the violence and brutality of the regime, as is seen when Offred notices the blood on the white cloth that covers one of the corpses at the Wall, where the mouth would have been. She comments on the "red of the smile" which is the same as the red of the tulips in Serena Joy's garden, although there is no connection between them, since the "red smile" is unnatural, unlike the red of the tulip.

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