When exploring symbols in any novel, there are several different functions these symbols .
In the novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood many of the symbols are used .
as literary ironic elements. Atwood carefully chooses her symbols in The Handmaid's Tale to .
portray the many contradictions that are present in the Gilead Society. By using the symbols .
ironically, the reader recognizes a deeper meaning behind them. More importantly, insight is .
gained on why these ironic symbols work so well in the novel. The symbols that show a large .
amount of irony in The Handmaid's Tale vary from setting, to clothing, to spoken language. The .
location of the novel, set in what used to be Harvard University, along with the Handmaid's given .
colour of red and the massive amount of Bible imagery, it is simple to understand the ironic and .
paradoxical meaning behind these subtle yet significant symbols.
An initial symbol that is introduced early on in the novel is that the Handmaids are all .
dressed in red. Once the reader discovers what the Handmaids' purpose is in the Gilead Society .
the colour seems appropriate and fitting. Red is the colour of fertility, fruitfulness, and bears .
imagery of menstruation. For Handmaids, becoming pregnant is the objective, with no romance .
whatsoever involved. Nevertheless red is also the colour of sex, passion, desire, romance and of .
course - sexual sin. In a society where such affairs are forbidden it seems as though the .
Handmaids are being teased by being given such a sensuous colour that they may not be .
comfortable in. Having the colour-code of the Handmaids be red shows extreme irony in the sense .
that Handmaids are strictly forbidden to engage in any sexual encounters other than with the .
commander, and are also denied any romance since their duty is simply to produce offspring. " I .
used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation.