The Handmaid's Tale Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale book cover
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How are the red tulips symbolic of the handmaids in The Handmaid's Tale?

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In The Handmaid's Tale, the ladies in red have but one purpose: to provide children. Fertility is a problem in their society, and the women chosen to be handmaids are chosen because they are thought to be fertile. Early in the book, Offred describes her clothing as "the color of blood." Everything is red with the exception of her white bonnet and wings. The blood-red color of the handmaids' attire symbolizes fertility, while the white around their faces serves to show their purity.

In the third chapter, Offred describes walking through Serena Joy 's garden where there are red tulips. Offred notices that these tulips are "opening their cups, spilling out color." The red tulips are symbolic of the handmaids that must be open to their commanders in order to bring forth children. The tulips are a darker color near the stem giving the appearance that "they had been cut and are beginning to heal." This statement is symbolic of the process the handmaids have been through. They arrived as unworthy,...

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mkcapen1 | Student

Everything in regards to the Handmaid is relative to red.  In the book The Handmaid's Tale the world as people know it has changed.  Inside the country women are nothing and men are in control.  The fanatics have revised life so that people live in status roles.  Infertility is rampant and the objective is to try and reproduce children into the households of people of authority.

The handmaids are a select group of women who are imprisoned by the society to serve as pregnancy vessels.  They are forced to wear red as their attire.  The color red symbolizes life's blood.  Therefore, the red tulip symbolizes the life blood which nourishes the infant as well.