Symbolic Power of Naming in the Handmaid’s Tale

What is the symbolic power of naming as described in The Handmaid’s Tale? Link to your wider reading about the politics of naming. 250 – 300 words.

Naming is the way we mark our names to one another, to be able to associate a particular person with a story behind themselves. In Margeret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it is not different. Established from the very beginning of the novel, the handmaids are given names Offred, Ofglen, and so on, all with the prefix ‘of’ symbolise their belonging to their specific commander. Not only does this symbolise their belonging to their specific commander due to the idea of working for them, but also their body and their relationship to the commander.

The importance of names is to be able to hold on to their own identity, not to eventually be slowly forgotten as they are all seen as the same. The idea of not having a name or their name being stripped from them dates back to days where oppression and genocide were common such as Jews in labor camps, black saves in the United States, and so on. The idea of not having a name for the handmaid themselves shows that they have no power, no sense of self, and also represented as Offred loses track of time and slowly, her identity.

This relates to the idea of the current Black Lives Matter movement, specifically the name of Breonna Taylor. That people have associated the problem of police brutality and the police abusing the system with the name Breonna Taylor. Contrasting The Handmaid’s Tale in associating power and a message with a name.

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