Symbolism in The Handmaid's Tale and War of the Worlds

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  • Motifs/symbols in War of the Worlds ???? and The Handmaid's Tale ????
    • Red
      • Symbolizes fertility - menstrual blood
      • Relates to the scarlet letter, traditionally worn by women who committed sexual sin
      • The red weed is symbolic of the power and conquest of the Martians, pointing to the potential for the delicate ecosystem of life on earth to be thrown off balance overnight.
        • The suddenly omnipresent red weed overwhelms the narrator, making him feel as if he’s  awoken to find himself on an unknown planet, accentuating his sense of disorientation and obscuring his connection to his native home.
          • ''the narrator and the curate creep outside, only to find that an invasive red weed has grown across the land.'' (2.1.)
            • The weed has  obscured his sight, similar to how at the start of the novel, society was blind to the possibility that there may be life outside of earth.
          • ''the hole in the kitchen wall has been overgrown by the red weed that has accompanied the Martians and spread over the earth.'' (2.5.
            • The weed has  obscured his sight, similar to how at the start of the novel, society was blind to the possibility that there may be life outside of earth.
    • Eyes
      • Represent surveillance and the harsh Gilead regime
      • Offred and her fellow citizens are always being watched, yet are expected not to look at anyone.
        • Handmaids’ vision and other’s view of them is blocked by wings - white - handmaid's are confined to purity and innocence unable to view the contrasting environment.
      • The Martians observing life on Earth
        • 'we were being scrutinized'
    • Flowers and nature
      • Used in handmaid's to provide a contrast to the horrifying events occurring in Gilead.
        • 'Shopping', Offred compares the red smile (unnatural, against human nature) to the red tulips from Serena Joy's garden. 'The red is the same but there is no connection'
          • She's saying that the colour is the only thing the 2 have in common as the hangings are unnatural and go against human nature - This could be Offred's way of not becoming desensitized to the Gilead regime.
      • The red weed is symbolic of the power and conquest of the Martians, pointing to the potential for the delicate ecosystem of life on earth to be thrown off balance overnight.
        • The suddenly omnipresent red weed overwhelms the narrator, making him feel as if he’s  awoken to find himself on an unknown planet, accentuating his sense of disorientation and obscuring his connection to his native home.
          • ''the narrator and the curate creep outside, only to find that an invasive red weed has grown across the land.'' (2.1.)
            • ''the hole in the kitchen wall has been overgrown by the red weed that has accompanied the Martians and spread over the earth.'' (2.5.
        • Eggs
          • Again could be symbolizing fertility or the menstrual cycle
            • ''another plate with an eggcup on it, the kind that looks like a woman’s torso, in a skirt. Under the skirt is the second egg, being kept warm.”
              • The egg cup mirrors Offred’s role as a blank vessel holding an egg.
          • “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,”
            • Phrase links back to the French Revolution, it implies it’s necessary to sacrifice some lives for the greater good.
        • Religion
          • The names of shops (Milk and Honey, Fish and Loaves), caste names (Marthas, Angels), car names (Behemoth) and even Jezebel’s club are all biblical allusions.
          • The government also uses biblical quotes and phrases in order to justify its government.
            • Genesis extract: ''Give me children or else I die''.
          • The Curate
            • Contrasts to the scientific Narrator and can be seen to represent religion in the novel.
              • ''How can God's ministers be killed?''
                • He could be introducing a bigger idea into the novel - the concept of science vs. religion
                  • ''What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?''
                  • The Curate's character believes that the Martians were sent as a punishment from God and that they can't be killed so he acts passively and gets killed.
                    • The Narrator (representing science) survives however and it's science that eventually kills the martians (the bacteria).
                      • Therefore Wells' message could be that in the face of disaster, believing in religion is futile.
              • ''What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?''
        • Animals
          • Extensive metaphorical language comparing humans to animals.
            • ''For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well.''
            • ''I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy [workers] digging the foundations of a house.''
            • ''this war has taught us pity – pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.'' (2.7.)
              • The narrator is saying that humans are feeling the same threat from the martians as animals usually feel from the humans.
                • ''For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well.''
                • ''I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy [workers] digging the foundations of a house.''
                • His incessant contrasts serve to underscore than even in comparison with the animals, man is not all that superior.
        • The Martians
          • The novel was written during a period of great political instability in Europe
          • Therefore there was a possibility that the Industrial Revolution could make new weapons of warfare in the future which would in the past have seemed impossible.
            • So the invading aliens can be seen as symbolizing any of the powerful European states angling for more territory and power.
              • The novel was written during a period of great political instability in Europe
              • This can be seen through At the same time, the Martians effectively seeking to colonize earth to exploit its natural resources

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