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1 Nurtured Blossoms: An Examination of the Floral Imagery in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale How effective is Margaret Atwood’s use of floral imagery in shaping the reader's’ understanding of fertility and maternal identity in The Handmaid’s Tale ? Literature: Category 1 Word Count: 3501
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2 Table of Contents Content Page No. Title Page 1 Table of Contents 2 Introduction 3 Main Body 5 Conclusion 14 Bibliography 16 Nurtured Blossoms: An Examination of the Floral Imagery in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Introduction
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3 Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a nation filled with silent mayhem, where women are dehumanized and managed as vessels of reproduction. In the novel, readers are provided with a narrative from a handmaid, Offred, who has been stripped from her rights as a woman and a mother. Offred’s loss of maternal identity can be seen through the following quote; “I have been obliterated for her... a shadow of a shadow, as dead mothers become. You can see it in her eyes: I am not there.” (Atwood, 1986, p. 178). Through this quote and those similar to it readers are submerged into Offred’s crude reality. Offred’s nostalgic commentary reveals to the reader all she has lost since the Gilead regime rose to power, for instance her control over her fertility and maternal role in her daughter’s life. Atwood achieves to express these themes and riddled emotions through the use of periodic floral imagery. Much like Offred, Atwood’s portrayal of Serena Joy frequently involves the tactical use of floral imagery. The recurrence of flowers throughout the novel aid in the reader's understanding of fertility and maternal identity. Atwood gives the reader insight into Serena Joy’s role as a wife of a powerful commander and a woman of Gilead. As Lady Mary Wortley once wrote, “There is no colour, no flower…that has not a verse belonging to it” (Ericsson, 2008, p.2). This statement deems true when applied to the recurring presence of floral imagery in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the emotions the flowers elicit within Offred and those around her. Atwood’s use of floral imagery allows readers to understand the role fertility and motherhood plays in Atwood’s dystopian society. Key symbols like blue irises and the crimson tulips all play their role in shaping the reader's’ perception of both Offred and Serena Joy. Women who are both oppressed by the Republic of Gilead’s Regime, but are in two distinct situations.
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4 This paper seeks to explore: How effective was Margaret Atwood’s use of floral imagery in shaping the reader's understanding of fertility and maternal identity in The Handmaid’s Tale? This research question is worthy of inquiry due to the role women play in our global society, and the depiction of their role in the novel is controversial and demands investigation. The role of handmaids in Atwood’s fictional Republic of Gilead are limited to their ability to bear children, contrary to the handmaids, the wives only aspiration in life is to raise a child which they are unable to bear. A
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