Serena’s Garden Passage

That was in May. Spring has now been undergone. The tulips have had their moment and are done, shedding their petals one by one, like teeth. One day I came upon Serena Joy, kneeling on a cushion in the garden, her cane beside her on the grass. She was snipping off the seed pods with a pair of shears. I watched her sideways as I went past, with my basket of oranges and lamb chops. She was aiming, positioning the blades of the shears, then cutting with a convulsive jerk of the hands. Was it the arthritis, creeping up? Or some blitzkrieg, some kamikaze, committed on the swelling genitalia of the flowers? The fruiting body. To cut off the seed pods is supposed to make the bulb store energy.

Saint Serena, on her knees, doing penance.

I often amused myself this way, with small mean-minded bitter jokes about her; but not for long. It doesn’t do to linger, watching Serena Joy, from behind.

What I coveted was the shears.

Well. Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat’s-ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they’d not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena’s, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon. Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: like holding your hand an inch above an arm, a shoulder. It breathes, in the warmth, breathing itself in. To walk through it in these days, of peonies, of pinks and carnations, makes my head swim.

The willow is in full plumage and is no help, with its insinuating whispers. Rendezvous, it says, terraces; the sibilants run up my spine, a shiver as if in fever. The summer dress rustles against the flesh of my thighs, the grass grows underfoot, at the edges of my eyes there are movements, in the branches; feathers, flittings, grace notes, tree into bird, metamorphosis run wild. Goddesses are possible now and the air suffuses with desire. Even the bricks of the house are softening, becoming tactile; if I leaned against them they’d be warm and yielding. It’s amazing what denial can do. Did the sight of my ankle make him lightheaded, faint, at the checkpoint yesterday, when I dropped my pass and let him pick it up for me? No handkerchief, no fan, I use what’s handy.

Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not this heaviness, as if I’m a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness.

The Handmaid’s Tale, chapter 25

Handmaid’s Tale Simile Perfect Paragraphs

Louise et Shaïneze Atwood uses chocking similes to show the violence of Gilead. For example, as Offred walks by the wall, Atwood illustrates her reaction thinking: « It makes the men look like dolls on wich faces have not yet been painted, like scarecrows, wich in a way is what they are, since they are meant to scare ». In this quote, Atwood shows us Offred’s reaction to the people changed on the wall like scarecrows. She compares the bodies to scarecrows because they are examples to scare people who would want to rebel against the government. 

Then, Atwood shows how Offred pictures herself after the shower: « I wait, washed, brushed like a price pig ». She compares Offred to a pig, an animal, because this is how the handmaids are treated, like animals. Atwood shows that in Gilead society, handmaids don’t have human clays many more and are used against their rights. 

Finally, as a last example, Atwood illustrates Offred’s mind after she put butter on her face like lotion « we are containers, it’s only the inside of our bodies that are important. The outside can become hard and wrinkled, for all they care, like the shell of a nut ». Again Atwood shows how handmaids are dehumanized for Gilead, handmaids condition does not matter. They are just containers for babies, so here handmaids are objectified. To conclude, the simile shows how violent the Gilead society is toward women. It doesn’t let them any liberty of speech or just simple freedom. 

Esther, Irenee, Victor Atwood uses shocking and similes to show the violence of Gilead.

First of all, in chapter 6, as Offred is looking at the wall and sees the hand man/women, she says: “ it makes the men look like dolls on which faces have not yet been painted […] like scarecrows, which in a way is what they are, since they are meant to scare.” There Atwood creates a really long sentence that creates an impact on the reader as he is used to short and descriptive phrases. The repetition of the word “fear” is also a shocking image that shares an emotion and creates an atmosphere. Second of all at the very beginning of the tale Offred compares The handmaid’s life to the army: “ Think of it as being in the army, said aunt Lydia.” This quote is proof for the violence of the Gilead Society (how they have no possessions and lost their identity for violent reasons). It also shows the strictness of this new society and the difficulty to accept it. Lastly, in chapter 13, Offred is comparing herself to a pig which is a degrading image: “ I wait, washed, brushed, fed like a prize pig.” This is shocking because it proves that she has some values to others (prize) but she still is a pig. It is vital in the way the society considers its members and how she just is the property of someone.

To conclude this all, The author utilizes lots of similes to create a sense of shock from the reader and to enhance how violent the Gilead society is.

Cesar and Pablo Atwood uses simile to illustrate the loss of identity. Take as an example when she describes the mirror when walking downstairs “like the eye of a fish, and myself in it like a distorted shadow.” From this quote we can deduce that the author is trying to outline how her personality is vanishing. It also resembles the little red riding hood tale in the way that she feels like a prey and that she is being watched. For the second quotation the writer depersonalizes the snowmen hanging on the wall by commenting how they all wear the same garments which were used to be worn by doctors and scientists and how the men cannot be distinguished from each other. Not only that but it also exemplifies how in Gilead people are differentiated by colours“The men wear white coats like those worn by doctors or scientists.”(pg.38) This leads to the next quotation which also talks about the snowmen and their lack of personality. In this case Atwood talks about the bags they wear resembling dolls in mid-production. “It makes the men look like dolls on which faces have not yet been painted; like scarecrows, which in a way it’s what they are, since they are meant to scare.” In this first simile she wipes out their personality by insinuating that they look like objects, ones which can’t be differed from each other. In the second simile Margaret compares the snowmen with scarecrows and their role which in this case is to scare rebels from revolting against Gilead’s norms.
Gatien, Holali Atwood uses simile to illustrate the loss of identity. First of all, Margaret Atwood established the concept of name and how they are erased. As for example in the quote:”I want to be held, and be told my name”. The Author explains how Offred wishes to recover a little bit of her identity. Just her name that hasn’t been said in years. It particularly shows how the Gilead Republic has dehumanized her. In addition, the sound -old which is a comforting and soft sound shows that she longs for the affection of others. In order to regain her identity. Another example is when Offred says:”I wait, washed, brushed, fed like a prize pig”. This simile is very important as it shows how the handmaid’s, and particularly Offred, feels about their place in the society. It is one of the first time that she is clearly considers her place as a very degrading state for a human being. Her loss of identity is even going further as she identifies herself as a pig, an animal that has no identity and no other purpose than to be held or offered as a gift. But at same time she is in the consideration of being a prize and is happy to be considered valuable. Finally for the last example, Atwood writes:”The men wear white coats like those wore by doctors or scientists”. In this example, the roles and identity of people are reduced to the color they wear. It shows how in the Gilead society people have social roles determined by their most basic condition and depending on that your “identity is decided among 5 or 6 choices 
Amandine & Clémence  Atwood uses shocking simile to show the violence of Gilead. For example, Atwood writes: 

« I wait, washed, brushed, like a prize pig. » (p. 75) This quote shows how the handmaids are treated like animals. They are used by society just for their body, Gilead does not care about their feelings. The fact that the author utilizes the expression “prize pig” also highlights that Offred has a kind of importance. This is ironic because the society tells her that she has value, but they treat her like an animal, even an object. 

Secondly, this other citation reveals an even more violent side of Gilead: 

« It makes the men look like dolls on which faces have not yet been painted, like scarecrows, which in a way is what they are, since they are meant to scare. » (p. 75) This sentence demonstrates that this society does not hesitate to sacrifice people to show others the example. Each person who does not follow all the rules will be killed. The executions are public, everyone can assist to it. Then the dead bodies are hanged on the Wall, so that everyone can see them. This is meant to discourage people from breaking the rules. 

Finally, in this example, the writer illustrates the brutality of the “arrest” of Offred and her family: 

« It was like being in an elevator cut loose at the top. Falling, falling, and not knowing when you will hit. » (p. 199) Here, the author uses this simile to show that the people who caught them were very hard, aggressive. Once more, they are treated like objects by the Gilead society, who does not pay any attention to what these people can feel, they just do what they are told to do. This is really shocking because Offred, her husband Luke and their daughter are just trying to escape from a world that wants to separate them and to take all their liberties, and they are arrested like criminals. 

The Gilead society is violent by its way of acting, but also by its ideas and its foundations. 

Lola et Owen In The Handmaid’s tale, Atwood uses simile to illustrate the loss of identity. Firstly, in Gilead government, Atwood uses the “taking-away names” technique to illustrate a loss of identity. For instance, in chapter fourteen “Your name is like a telephone number.” In this quote, the Handmaids are named with numbers, taking example on the Second World War where humans beings were considered like objects or slaves. That gives a slave dimension to the handmaids, who lost their identity as slaves.

Secondly, Atwood compares Offred to a piece of toast : “buttered, I lie on my single bed, flat like a piece of toast.” She has such a lack of freedom that she uses butter for facial products. She compares herself to a piece of toast on which we spread butter. 

Lastly, in page seventy five it is said that Offred compares herself as an animal : “I wait, washed, brushed like a prize pig.” Here, it is clear that Offred compares herself to a pig and dehumanizes herself. Animals and slaves have the same status : they are not human, which shows that Offred loses her human identity.

Simile Chart, The Handmaid’s Tale

SIMILE (quote + page number) ANALYSIS (what does it contribute to the reader’s understanding, what techniques/devices are used, what is revealed about character or theme) Student Name
“Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting to the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloudcover.”  p.201 Margaret Atwood uses antithesis to show the moon how bright it is during the night. Owen 
”buttered, I lie on my single bed, flat like a piece of toast”
” It makes the men look like dolls on which faces have not yet been painted, like scarecrows, which in à way is what they are, since they are meant to scare.” (p. 38) The objectification shows an important aspect of the book. It represents the position of those who don’t follow rules in society. If they don’t follow rules then they show the exemple as dolls that can be sacrificed when not conformed, manipulated till the beginning to the end. Used for one goal, maintain power in place.  Clément 
”Or I would help Rita, to make the bread, sinking my hands into that soft resistant warmth which is so much like flesh.“ p17 Offred doesn’t have any pleasure to help for the community tasks : she compares the texture she is touching (bread) to flesh which is a degrading comparaison.  Irénée  
 « It’s like a fart in church. » (p94) The situation is uncomfortable, Serena Joy doesn’t want to be heard crying and Offred is trying to stop herself from laughing just like a fart in church which you don’t want people to hear and for others that are trying to hold there laughter. Esther 
“I will  Offred  Victorious Victor
“I wait, washed, brushed like a prize pig” (p75)  This similie is very important as it shows how the handmaid’s, and particularly offered, feels about their place in the society. It is one of the first time that she clearly considers her placas as a very degrading state for a human being. But at the same time she is in the consideration of being a prize and is happy to be considered valuable. Q  Gatien
”I can see it as I go down the stairs, round, convex, a pier-glass, like the eye of a fish” (p15) Offred feels watched by an eye. The eye is the society. Everywhere she goes, everything she does, is controlled. She doesn’t have any liberty and private time, She is paranoid, she sees eyes everywhere and think that even walls are listening to her. Carla  
”like the eye of a fish, and myself in it like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure…” (p15) Offred created a fictional world in which has full control of the plot in some part of her mind in order to maintain a good mental state and not a have a mental breakdown.
 “It’s like a party she couldn’t go to.” p141 Cora wants to be included and is feeling left out, because Martha’s aren’t allowed to go to the birthing ceremonies. The birthing ceremonies are of great importance showing of the Handmaid’s failed or not.  Melina 
”They pick him up and heave him into the back of the van like a sack of mail.” 


Ever since Gilead became a reality people are treated more like objects rather than actual people. They do not care if they get hurt. Pablo 
It was like being in an elevator cut loose at the top. Falling, falling, and not knowing when you will hit. Offref remembers when she and her family tried to escape across the Canadian border but were caught. She compare this moment of betrayal to the terror of being in an elevator whose cable has been cut at the top.  Mamadou 
Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted. . . think of yourselves as seeds. . . Offred talked about the comparison between the handmaid and the seed made by the aunts, which evokes the biblical simile of seed sowing and how these seeds grow in different soils. Lola  
”We are containers, it’s only the inside of our bodies that are important. The outside can become hard and wrinkled, for all they care, like the shell of a nut” (p.107) This quote shows how unimportant and non-essential the handmaid’s physical appearance and mental health is to the government of Gilead. It shows how the society of Gilead only cares about the handmaids’ ability to bear children, and how they are put aside and neglected, and treated like objects. Zara 
 ”Surprising how much like a small, begging child [Rita] makes me feel, simply by her scowl, her stolidity; how importunate and whiny.” (p. 214)  This simile illustrates how Offred is not free in her choices, how inferior she is to anyone from a hierarchical point of view. It takes her back to childhood, when she had to ask her mother to do or have something. She is not treated like a woman, but really like an irresponsible child.  Clémence  


Handmaid’s Tale: Opening

Commentary on chapter one

Georgian palimpsestWe – this establishes a first-person narrator but she is unidentified.

Palimpsest – A palimpsest is a place on a parchment where writing has been scraped out and written over. Here, the narrator suggests that the past has been overlaid by the present.

pictures – This suggests to us that the narrator has not had the chance to experience these fashions herself.

That yearning – The speaker realises that her past young romantic fantasies never quite lived up to expectation.

Still said U.S. – This hints to us that the United States of America has ceased to exist.

Aunt Sara … Aunt Elizabeth – The names sound friendly and cosy – but then we read ‘patrolled; they had electric cattle prods.’ Our expectations are undermined.

could not be trusted – The use of the passive voice means that we do not know who does the mistrusting. The government of the state of Gilead is never explicitly identified in the novel.

Guns … for … the Angels – As with the Aunts, our expectations of the word ‘Angel‘ are undermined.

Something could be exchanged – The word ‘exchanged’ is frequently used in the novel, and becomes significant, suggesting the importance of human inter-action. (See Themes and significant ideas > Human relationships)

We still had our bodies – There seems to be a hint here of prostitution. Given that these young women are to become, effectively, sex-slaves, it is ironic that the speaker feels this is a ‘fantasy’.

We exchanged names … Alma, Janine, Dolores, Moira, June – During the course of the novel Alma, Janine, Dolores and Moira are all mentioned by the narrator, so is the narrator June? It is ironic that these women are later given new names referring to the man to whom they currently belong e.g. Offred, Ofglen, Ofwarren.

Investigating chapter one

  • What impressions have you gained from this chapter of the narrator and her circumstances
    • By what means?
  • What do you not know that you would have expected to find out from the first chapter of a novel?
    • What might be the author’s purpose in keeping such knowledge from her readers?