The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 3

On her way to the shops, she passes through the Commander’s wife’s garden, and she begins to think about a garden she had before Gilead, and the Commander’s wife. Offred, notes that the Commander’s wife is fond of knitting, and she is particularly skilled at it (Williamson, 2017). All the wives are assigned the task of knitting for the Angels that are stationed at the frontline. She recalls the first time that she came to the Commander’s house after a previous couple had dropped her. When she arrived, Serena told her to ensure that she should stay out of sight, as well as to avoid making any trouble.  She reminded her that the Commander was her husband and that relationship was a permanent one. As she was talking to Offred, she was also smoking, something that the handmaids were forbidden to do, as well as drinking alcohol or coffee. It is at this moment when Offred recognizes that the Commander’s wife was once a lead soprano from the “Growing Souls’ Gospel Hour”. This was a program which Offred used to watch when she was still a young child.


Serena’s hobbies are closely associated with femininity; knitting as well as gardening. In addition to this, these two are traditionally associated with fertility. In her garden, Offred notes that the tulips have bloomed again symbolising fertility (Atwood, 2004). The garden paints a contrast to the world of Gilead, a ‘republic’ rife with sterility. Serena mainly prefers to knit childish scarves for the Angels, alluding to her desire to have children, and protect them. However, Serena in this scene is seen as a hypocrite. She strongly abides by the rules set by Gilead, ensuring that the handmaids and the wives do not interact, whilst simultaneously rebelling by smoking a cigarette. Serena’s religious beliefs however seem to have been in place long before the Republic of Gilead came to fruition.

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