The Handmaid's Tale

what are the different titles for groups of people in the narrator's world? what is the significance to each title? is there significance to the colors they wear?

this comes from the book the handmaid's tale

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The Handmaids are all referred to by names that signify the Commanders they serve: Offred, Ofglen, Ofwarren, Ofcharles, etc. These names are "patronymic, composed of the possessive preposition and the first name of the gentleman in question," and just like "the other names in the document are equally useless for the purposes of identification and authentication" (Historical Notes.29, 30). They reveal nothing about the Handmaids, except the absence of their own identities and personhood. Similarly, even though the Aunts have individual, feminine names, they aren't their real names either. They've been renamed by the administration in references to domestic products (Historical Notes.37).

Even when the narrator refers to other characters from her past by individual or specific names, it doesn't necessarily mean those are their real names. We just don't know. The professors speculate in the "Historical Notes" that the narrator is trying to protect the people she loves by using pseudonyms for them. However, these pseudonyms may not be arbitrary. "Luke," the name she uses for her husband, could be a Biblical reference to Saint Luke. The name she uses for her best friend, "Moira," is an Irish version of "Mary" and can thus be seen as a reference to the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene. At one point, the narrator seems to emphasize both the illusion of these names and their religious connections by asking God to reveal a name too: "I wish you would tell me Your Name, the real one I mean" (30.34). Significantly, the narrator's daughter and mother are never named.

The narrator calls her real name her "shining name" (14.38), which she reveals to Nick but never to us. At least one reviewer believes clues in the text point to it, however. Mary McCarthy observes in the New York Times that "we are never told [the narrator's own, real name in so many words, but my textual detective work says it is June."Women are divided into a small range of social categories, each one signified by a specific-color dress in a similar style. Handmaids wear red, Marthas green, and Wives blue. Econowives, the lower-class women who still have minimal agency, are sort of a mixture of all these categories, so they wear stripes (5.5). The dress code means that women are no longer individuals; they have become interchangeable, like identical outfits on a rack. The narrator realizes the consequence of this in one of her conversations with the Commander, when she says, "we don't have different clothes [...] you merely have different women" (37.26).]