Offred is the narrator of the story and the reader is told everything about the Gilead regime from her perspective. She does not often describe her physical appearance but the reader knows that she cares about how she looks. “…I will use the butter later tonight…” “…I rub the butter over my face…” “there’s no more hand lotion or face cream, not for us.” “The butter is a trick…”. Even this shows her rebellion, for as a handmaid she cannot think for herself or against the regime. OFFRED Offred as a Handmaid The Handmaid's are there to bear children to the wifes. They are always seen in red, symbolising fertility. Offred is the main character aswell as the narrator in the novel. Through her experiences we learn about the ideas that Margaret Atwood has for the novel."Offred" is a slave name, as it is patronymic Of-fred making her a possesion of her current commander. Her status in society is frowned apon by multiple other woman. The wifes describe the Handmaid's as sluts and the Martha's and Econowifes see them as being lazy. This pushes the women away from each other and severs any chances of them joining together and creating friendships, or relationships. As a woman she cannot own possessions or money. She is even denies the right to read, as to read is to be educated and to be educated is to have power. The Patriarchal society rules in Gilead and the Commander makes it clear that woman are inferior. PERSONALITY • Personal Opinion • As readers we feel disappointed with Offred. We feel that she has so many opportunities to escape or make a difference, but she does not take them. Instead she has “…a leading trait (of Offred was her)/of unwillingness to stick her neck out…” • We feel that she is a hypocrite as she judges other people conforming to the Gileadean ways, but she, also, is pretending to do the same. Her lack of courage is what is frustrating but at the same time it makes her more believable as a real character. What keeps Offred sane is that she refuses to forget her past or her own name, when she was a daughter, mother, wife and a working woman. She mentions Luke who was her husband in the time before. She describes how they tried to escape with their daughter over the border into Canada. Memories from her family before are what keeps her from killing herself as she feels that there is a chance, however small, that she could be reunited with them and by killing herself she would take away any such chances. " I try to conjure, to raise my own spirits, from wherever they are. I need to remember what they look like. I try to hold them still behind my eyes, their faces, like pictures in an album. But they won't stay still for me, they move, there's a smile and it's gone, their features curl and bend as if the paper's burning, blackness eats them. A glimpse, a pale shimmer on the air; a glow, aurora, dance of electrons, then a face again, faces. But they fade, though I stretch out my arms towards them, they slip away from me, ghosts at daybreak. Back to wherever they are. Stay with me, I want to say. But they won't. It's my fault. I am forgetting too much." is a quote from Offred, showing her desire to be reunited with her family. She also wishes to be reunited with her former self. She refuses to conform to the society's idea that she is simply a "two-legged womb". The only physical description we have of Offred is what she gives herself " I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair. I stand five seven without shoes". PERSONALITY • Personal Opinion • Offred has a private side, which as readers we see throughout the novel in many examples, such as her reluctance to share her name. She tells Nick her name in confidence as a symbol of love, whereas even though she is talking to us, and ‘pretend(ing) that you can hear me but I know you can’t’ she doesn’t feel that she can tell us her name as she has lost trust in humanity and keeps private things just that. Private. She refuses to give us her real name, something she wishes to keep as a treasure, something to dig up when she has succeeded in becoming free of Gilead. Her Pre-Gilead name is never revealed, but it 'It is implied that her birth name is June. All of the women training to be handmaids whisper names across the bed at night. The names are " Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June" and all are later accounted fore except June.'(Trust Me': Reading the Romance Plot in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale). " Her greatest psychological resource is her faculty for double vision."( York Notes by Coral Ann Howells) This double vision allows Offred, as she is a survivor from the past, to be able to live in the present. She perfects this double vision as the novel continues. She is able to simultaneously inhabit two different spaces, her handmaid space and at the same time be in a happier space of memory. Where she can be free to think for herself, remember where things use to be. This double vision enables the reader to understand the before and after parts of the novel. It makes the reader empathise with Offred as we put ourselves in her position imagining what it would be like if all our rights as woman were taken away and we were reduced to being house wives, handmaids or sent to the colonies depending on our reproductive ability. REBELLION: Personal Opinion: • Offred is subtle in her rebellion against Gilead and this generally frustrates us as we know how she envies the freedom of the Commander. She never has any vent about her freedom and how she wants it. We never know if she achieves that freedom, she is too shy to act out against Gilead. This annoys us because we want to know how she gets what she wants eventually, if she ever does. • Even though she disagrees with the ideology of Gilead she does not take drastic measures to show her rebellion. Instead she prefers to keep her rebellion subtle, by thinking for herself she denies Gilead total control over her, stealing the flower and still hoping that things will go back to the way they were. All these things are taboo in Gilead and punishable by death as it shows that she is not a true-believer. Offred sees things that represent power and remind her of freedom, these things create a desire in her to take these back from the ones who took them from her in the first place. She wishes that she had stolen the knife when she thinks the Eyes are coming for her. She wants this to escape her life, but as shown by her character she could never do such a thing because she feels even though everything has been taken from her, and she despises that, she still has hope for things to live for. Offred holds the Commanders pen at one stage during their meetings and goes on to say 'The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the words it contains. Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Centre motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. It's one more thing I would like to steal.' This shows Offred’s desire to have her own power again, the power of freedom. As Offred is denied possessions, even something as strange and insignificant as a pen symbolizes freedom and education. This is powerful imagery for us, as we can relate to Offred and her While she is confused about her identity and even starts to accept the role that has been imposed upon her, she always hopes that things will change. REBELLION: • Personal Opinion: • As readers used to dramatized Hollywood films, we are generally disappointed with Offred’s lack of courage. She never commits and drastic rebellious acts and instead subtly rebels while slowly conforming. She’s a frustrating character who many people may find complicated yet weak. She is a nice person, but she’s afraid for her family so silently obeys Gilead, while at the same time rebelling, and this annoys us because we never get that closure of knowing she does receive the freedom that she longs for during the whole novel. "Offred has been manipulated into believing that this sinister system was designed for her own good." (Rebellion in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale). She is afraid to commit any obvious acts of defiance because she still has the will to live. This is due to the fact that she continuously hopes to see Luke and her daughter again, as shown by her desire to see the photo of her daughter that Serena Joy presents to her. Offred is tortured by thoughts of her daughter. Communication between them is impossible. This is why Offred is so passive and unwilling to act out for her freedom. However, Mary McCarthy argues: " It is true that a leading trait of Offred was her unwillingness to stick her neck out and perhaps we are meant to conclude that such unwillingness, multiplied, may be fatal to a free society.“ This explains to us that in order to retain our freedom, we must be willing to fight when it is threatened otherwise society would never have developed. Women still would be unable to vote if everyone was afraid as Offred is. Even though she is afraid for her family, which is a decent reason to be afraid, she steals things and rebels and wants change. She never fights out for her freedom in a loud way as she knows the terrible consequences of being a traitor to Gilead- death. She also never knows who to trust, so she keeps her rebellion private.