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Explore the portrayal of Serena Joy and the Commander in the early part of the novel. Also estimate their characters importance in the novel. Serena Joy is portrayed as a frustrated, hostile and rude woman who is full of hate; which in some respects you could say she is, but her character runs much more deeply than is first apparent to the reader. This is portrayed through her characters words, actions and pursuits in many different ways. An example of this is her frustration at the little amount of freedom she is allowed.
Although when compared to a character like, Offred she has a lot of freedom, she feels she doesn’t, ‘It is a little thing, but in this household little things mean a lot. ‘, ‘Many of the wives have such gardens, it’s something for them to order and maintain and care for. ‘ By having a garden like this, and being allowed to take charge of it, and look after it, she feels this gives her some importance in the community. It is a distraction, a place of escape for her from the life that she leads, which is boring and she is not happy with.
This is the only freedom she is allowed in the life she leads now, which although it doesn’t mean a lot to her, it should be treasured because in Gilead to have freedom like that is unthinkable to most; this portrays Serena Joy to be a women who takes things and her status in the elite, for granted. ‘The tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem; as if they had been cut and are beginning to heal there. ‘ The garden to Serena Joy is also something she can take her frustration out on, as she is not supposed to harm Offred.
An aspect portrayed to us immensely about her character is her great longing for children; this is shown in many of the domestic pursuits she carries out, i. e. gardening and knitting, ‘They aren’t scarves for grown men but for children. ‘ Although these are scarves supposed to be made for the Angels who are grown men, she makes the scarves in children sizes. This shows the reader how she is always thinking about children, and how she longs to have children of her own. Her garden also portrays these feelings she has about children of her own, ‘Many of the wives have such gardens, it is something for them to order and maintain and care for.
‘ She treats her garden, like you would expect her to treat a child, by caring for it lovingly with great affection. She is rude and hostile towards Offred, because she hates the fact that she is there because she can’t have children of her own, also it must be a humiliating experience for her, the thought of her husband making love to another woman, ‘So, you’re the new one, she said. She didn’t step aside to let me in, she just stood there in the door way, blocking the entrance. She wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so. ‘
This is where the reader, feels a little compassion for Serena Joy, as she is portrayed as an awful women, who really has bought this predicament on herself; but it must be humiliating for her. Her husband is sleeping with another women, and as far as she is concerned it is because she cannot have children. She also knows that this life that she has helped to promote, is awful and she hates the way in which she has to live now. Her name is also trying to portray an image of serenity and joy, which once she as a young woman had portrayed, but now with a new way of living, her nature has come to contradict her name,
‘The woman sitting in front of me was Serena Joy. Or had once been. So it was worse than I thought. ‘ The Commander is portrayed as a man who will use his power and authority to get what he wants. He rebels against his own way of life that he has fought to promote, which portrays to us that he too is unhappy with the way he has to live his life, ‘he isn’t supposed to be here’, ‘He is violating custom’. I feel that as we read further into the novel, the way he uses his power to get what he wants will be even more strongly portrayed as part of his character to the reader. We don’t get vivid descriptions of the Commander at first.
He is a character which you know is there but we don’t get to meet or see at the beginning of the novel. This portrays him as a slightly mysterious, and you never quite know when to expect him to turn up, ‘The commander stops, gets into the car, disappears, and Nick shuts the door. ‘ His clothes also gives an awe of uncertainty and mystery as he has to dress all in black, which is the colour closely associated to death. He’s a character of great importance in the society of Gilead, and we see this at the Ceremony. We see at the ceremony that he is a highly influential character too,
‘We watch him: every inch, every flicker. ‘ Everyone watches him and wants to be him, which shows he is influential, this though is just because of the power, importance and freedom he has, which all the other characters can only dream about. The first description we get of the Commander portrays him as a very ordinary looking man, ‘When you get down as far as the chin he looks like a vodka ad, in a glossy magazine, of times gone by. ‘ He looks like a friendly approachable man, which slightly contradicts the mysterious feel he has portrayed at the very beginning of the novel.
As they are both characters of great power within the society, I feel they are very important in the novel as a whole, and as the book goes on their importance will increase. They are both very strong characters, and both feel that they are hard done by compared to how they used to live but they aren’t when compared to characters like Offred. This is also true of many people in the world today. They are two characters in the novel who care only for themselves and nobody else, even though they are very lucky with what they have.