Sunday, April 28, 2013

How does Margaret Atwood present Serena Joy?

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In The Handmaids Tale Margaret Atwood uses Serena Joy to reflect various aspects of Gilead ideology. Serena Joy is part of a collective group of women, known as the wives who are used to highlight the hierarchy that exists in Gilead and emphasize female power.

Serena Joy is introduced by Offred, she is shown maintaining and caring for her garden as if it was her child and she was the surrogate mother. This relates to her function in real life, as just like in the garden she has to be a surrogate mother if Offred or another handmaid gets pregnant and produces a healthy baby. Atwood informs the reader about how Serena Joy knits scarves for the Angels. However, Offred tells how she doubts that ‘the Angels have a need for such scarves’. This gives the reader the idea that Serena Joy has less of a function to play in society than Offred. This is because Serena Joy is not fertile like Offred and the other handmaids.

Serena Joy demonstrates her power when Offred has a flashback about when she arrived at Serena Joy’s house for the first time. Serena does this by ‘blocking the entrance. She wanted me to feel that I could not come into he house unless she said so’. This shows the reader that Serena, as a wife has power over Offred. Serena Joy’s power of Offred is also illustrated when the reader finds out the wives can hit the handmaids ‘not with any implement. Only with their hands’. Atwood shoes this to illustrate the hierarchy that exists between the different groups of women in society.

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Serena Joy is portrayed as an unpleasant woman, who really has bought this dilemma on herself. In the time before she used to preach about women staying home, which is what she does now. However, she is speechless and therefore has got what she preached for. Atwood uses this to show that Serena Joy’s identity has been withdrawn. Atwood in addition, uses Serena Joy’s name to show how she has lost her identity from the time before. Her name portrays an image of serenity and joy, which once she was as a young woman but now her nature has come to contradict her name. Evidence of this is given by ‘how furious she must be now that she has been taken at her word’.

Her husband is sleeping with another women, and as far as she is concerned it is because she cannot have children. She also knows that this life that she has helped to promote, is awful and she hates the way in which she has to live now.



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