Religion in Handmaids Tale “Religion is the opiate of the masses” by Karl Marx. This is a quote which states that religion controls the human mind because God can see everything at all times, all-seeing, and unlike the police or the government nothing can be hidden from God. This is the technique of control that is used in Gilead. The punishments given from the government and from religious societies are different. The government gives punishments as time in prison or fines which can only last the humans’ lifetime.
This can only happen if it proven in court and there are many ways to escape the punishments as bribing the judges. In the other hand Religion has more effect in the humans mind because if they do anything which will be inevitably caught by God they will go to hell for the rest of eternity. This has been the case in the novel “The Perfume” which has been very effective to keep people with a low profile and not do anything which was thought as being sinful. The Novel “The Handmaids Tale” uses religion as its government, they are not separated, but religion doesn’t only appear in the government.
The guards who are known as “The eyes of God” are the disciplinarian force known to remind the people that they cant get away with anything because they are always being watched by God. Then lastly the Commanders are “Commanders of the Faithful”. In the Gilead society “The Eye of God” and the eye of the state is the same. Then the domestic servants are referred to as “Marthas” which refers to the domestic character in the New Testament. Another example is the local police which are referred to as “Guardians of the Faith”; Soldiers are “Angels”.
These all are biblical and remind people of the religion. Every shop has religious names as Loaves and Fishes, All Flesh, Milk and Honey. Even the automobiles have biblical names like “Behemoth”, “Whirlwind”, and “Chariot”. The “Chariot” is a religious ride to hell or heaven and in Gilead it brings the dead to their graves. Which traditionally were called Mustangs, they are now called “Behemoths”. This was the largest and strongest biblical creature in the world. It was a cross between a hippopotamus and an elephant which caused it to grow even bigger.
In the bible it is stated that it was not allowed to enter Noah’s Ark because it was a cross between two animals as other creatures like the unicorn. This was interpreted in Gilead by not allowing different races to reproduce or have relationships, racial intercourse. The use of religion terminology for the description of people, ranks, and businesses. It provides an every day reminder that Gilead is a religious society. In most Religion societies women have less rights then men as they can’t study or go out of home without a man and they also had to always be well covered.
This is also the case in the Handmaid Tale. Even Serena Joy is mentioned as the commander’s wife and doesn’t have a real job. Only because she is the highest positioned women she has the right to name all the children. Then the handmaids which are used only for reproduction are not allowed to keep their children and also have to go through all the bad memories with none of the good ones which give them nothing to look forward to. Their uniform is a red colour which symbolizes fertility which is the primary function in their job. Red suggests the blood of the menstrual cycle and of childbirth.
In the other hand it also represents sexual sin which is related to why they are chosen to be handmaids because of their sins and fertility. While the Handmaids’ reproductive role is said by the Gilead high ranks to finds its justification in the Bible, I believe they commit adultery by having sex with their Commanders, who are married men. So to prevent this from happening to the commander he has to have his wife there whilst he has sex with the handmaids to do as if it was not adultery because he watches his wife at the same time. The wives, who dislike the Handmaids and call them sluts.
The Handmaids’ red clothing, also symbolize the sinfulness of the Handmaids’ position in Gilead.. They are not allowed to keep their children and also have to go through all the bad memories with none of the good ones which give them nothing to look forward to. The religion is also used in the process of having sex and giving birth and hanging which are including ceremonies, rituals and prayers in every one of them. I conclude that the novel “The Handmaids Tale” contains many biblical references. This enriches the novels vocabulary and also gives it an ambiguous meaning.