Oh, the things we take for granted when not living under a totalitarian regime: lipstick, Netflix, bubble wrap. Perhaps one of the most easily overlooked items is color. When oppression strips one of their freedom and dignity, color can become a luxury, but it can also become the oppressor.
In the novel, Atwood writes, “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us.” Blood’s connotation varies widely depending on the context. It can be linked to life, the blood coursing through one’s veins, but also death or injury. It can be seen as passionate and loving, but also as sinful. In one short line, Atwood has embraced all such implications. The sole duty of handmaids is to reproduce. In that way, they can be considered walking wombs, the life-force of this dying society. However, within that society the margin for error, for autonomy, is nonexistent, so there is also the ever-present threat of death that sits like a fog over the city—the red of the brick wall from which people are hanged.
Here Offred stands at the wall, a place that is meant to inspire fear, but that Offred visits seeking relief, hoping not to recognize the salvaged.
“By telling you anything at all I’m at least believing in you, believe you’re there, I believe you into being. Because I’m telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are. So I will go on. So I will myself to go on.”