Atwood begins by establishing a dismal atmosphere, ‘… something lugubrious, mournful, presbyterian’. Offred explains that the Gileadian regime has outlawed any form of contact with music; singing or listening to. The totalitarian regime sees music as a threat to its existence, ‘… especially the ones that use words like free. They are considered too dangerous. ‘ Music has immense power; the messages behind the music being of great strength. Gilead has not only outlawed songs about freedom but also songs about love; ‘I feel so lonely, baby.
I feel so lonely I could die. This too is outlawed’. In prohibiting music, Gilead in essence, has banned feelings of love, compassion and desire, companionship and celebration. Gilead exists to rid the world, or its society at the very least, of such feelings. However, music proves to be much more powerful as, like the narrator, not all abide by the laws set down by the legislators. Evidence is given to show that there is resistance to this regime, minute may be, but resistance nonetheless. ‘Such songs are not sung anymore in public…
‘ suggest that they are sung in private. However, interestingly enough, it is not only the handmaids which show this resistance; through Serena Joy we see another form of resistance. ‘And sometimes from the sitting room there will be thin sound of Serena’s voice, from a disc made long ago and played now with the volume low, so she won’t be caught listening… ‘ With Serena Joy, although it is obvious she does not agree with regime entirely, this would be more so an act of rebellion than it would be resistance, like with the cigarettes from the black market.
With the turn of the new season, the narrator describes how the house easily heats up. She describes the air as ‘stagnant’, creating an atmosphere of suffocation and claustrophobia. Perhaps there is irony here; Gilead is a regime that suffocates those whom it rules. Offred tells the reader that she’d ‘like to be able to open the window as wide as it could go’. Knowing full well that she is unable to do as she wishes, unable to breathe fresh air, we are made to sympathise with her.
Offred informs us that they, her and her fellow handmaids, will soon be ‘allowed’ to change into their summer dresses. The regime is such that it is even decided for them when it will be required for them to change into something cooler; nothing is done by these women through choice- choice too, is outlawed. The summer dresses are of ‘pure cotton, which is better than synthetics like the cheaper ones’. Does this suggest that she feels privileged by the summer dresses that are issued to them, that they, the handmaids had even been considered when the dresses had been chosen?
Having read the opening nine chapters the reader has been able to form some sort of understanding of Offred and it would seem for her to show gratitude towards the regime is totally out of character. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that such feelings have been borne into her and influenced by those in authority, primarily Aunt Lydia. Offred remembers the spectacular, highly convincing, moralistic speech performed by Aunt Lydia with regards to their uniform. ‘The spectacle women used to make of themselves’. Women would put on a lavish public show to attract men and they were dangerous as a result of this.