The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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What is the significance of the words Offred spells in her scrabble games with the commander and the images that they relate to the novel?

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When playing Scrabble with the Commander, Offred feels a sense of transgression since women are forbidden to read in Gilead society. She chooses to spell strange words that sound almost foreign, but they all relate to her plight as a woman in a misogynist world.

A valance is a drape that covers the uppermost part of a window. The word can also apply to decorative drape for a bed frame. In Offred's world, her social role is restricted to the bedroom, and the word valance recalls the canopy she looks up at during the ceremony when the Commander tries to impregnate her.

Quince is a fruit. The quince is sometimes considered to be the unnamed fruit taken by Eve in the Garden of Eden, linking it with transgressiveness. This is a perfect word for Offred to use since playing Scrabble is itself a transgressive act for a woman in Gilead.

A zygote is a cell that forms when the sperm and egg unite. That Offred, whose whole purpose in this society is to breed, should choose such a word makes sense and needs...

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