Serena Joy Character Analysis: Unveiling the Complexities of the Handmaid’s Tale

Serena Joy Character Analysis: Unveiling the Complexities of the Handmaid's Tale

When considering the characters in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Serena Joy stands out as a complex and thought-provoking character. As one of the wives of the powerful Commanders in Gilead, Serena Joy occupies a unique position in society. Despite her seemingly privileged role, Serena is a woman without power in a society that has stripped women of their rights. This contradiction sets the stage for a deeper analysis of Serena’s character and the themes and issues she embodies.

One of the central themes in The Handmaid’s Tale is the suppression and inequality of women in Gilead. Serena Joy symbolizes this inequality as she yearns for control and agency in a society that denies it to her. Though she plays the role of a traditional homemaker, Serena is not content in her position. She longs for the power and influence that she once had as a public speaker and advocate for women’s rights. This irony of a feminist character suffering in a society of her own making adds depth to Serena’s character and raises questions about gender roles and the consequences of extremist ideologies.

Another important aspect to consider in a character analysis of Serena Joy is her relationship with Offred, the narrator of the tale. The two women are connected by their shared role as reproductive handmaids, yet they approach their circumstances in vastly different ways. While Offred rebels against the oppressive system and fights for her individual rights, Serena resents her for being a reminder of her own inability to conceive. This dynamic between the two characters highlights the complexity of female relationships in a society where women are pitted against each other and forced to cope with their own reproductive capabilities.

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Furthermore, Serena Joy’s yearning for control and power is juxtaposed with her role as a commander’s wife and her interactions with the marthas, the lower class servants of Gilead. Serena’s frustration with her lack of control over Offred and her own life leads her to exert dominance over the marthas, adding another layer of complexity to her character. This power dynamic reveals the ways in which the powerful in Gilead exploit the powerless, even within their own ranks.

The Enigmatic Persona of Serena Joy

Though she is a woman herself, Serena Joy is a staunch advocate for the patriarchal society of Gilead, where women are stripped of their rights and forced into submissive roles. Without a doubt, Serena Joy is intended to be a great criticism of the suppression and inequality faced by women in this dystopian society.

The Role of Serena Joy

Serena Joy is depicted as an unhappy character, who often finds herself at odds with the commander and even Offred. While the commander has power over her in the public eye, Serena Joy still exercises control over the handmaids in her household.

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The irony lies in the fact that Serena Joy, despite being a proponent of this society, is ultimately powerless. Her personal life is devoid of happiness, and she is unable to fulfill her desire to have a child. This irony is further emphasized when Serena Joy becomes jealous of Offred’s potential pregnancy.

The Suppression of Women

The character of Serena Joy reveals themes of gender suppression and the restriction of women’s reproductive rights. In Gilead, women are reduced to their biological function and stripped of their individuality. Serena Joy, a former television personality and proponent of traditional gender roles, now finds herself confined to a domesticated lifestyle.

The suppression of Serena Joy’s sexuality and her inability to have a child serve as a critique of the societal constraints on women’s agency and reproductive autonomy. Through Serena Joy’s character, Atwood explores the consequences of a society where women are reduced to mere vessels for reproduction.

Overall, Serena Joy is a pivotal character in “The Handmaid’s Tale” who highlights the themes of gender inequality, suppression, and the consequences of a society dominated by patriarchy. Her enigmatic persona adds depth and complexity to the narrative, making her a fascinating subject for analysis and discussion.

Serena Joy’s Role in the Gilead Society

As the Aunt Lydia-influenced narrator Offred reveals through her analysis of Serena Joy’s acts, she is a married woman who at one time was a popular gospel singer and even had a television show of her own, similar to a “Great Gatsby” figure. However, when the Gilead revolution occurred, Serena Joy’s position changed drastically.

Serena Joy embodies the complex issues of gender inequality and the suppression of women’s reproductive and sexual rights in Gilead society. Unlike the Handmaids, who are valued solely for their fertility and reduced to their reproductive functions, Serena Joy is an individual who was once respected for her talents and work as a homemaker.

In light of the historical and feminist themes prevalent in the novel, Serena Joy’s role takes on greater significance. She represents the unhappy consequences women face when their agency and independence are stripped away. As a notable feminist speaker and writer prior to Gilead’s rise, Serena Joy is now confined to her role as a Commander’s wife, which further emphasizes the inequality and restrictions placed on women in Gilead.

Though Offred criticizes Serena Joy throughout the tale, there are moments where the two women share a connection. Offred, as the narrator, brings attention to Serena Joy’s struggle with her own unhappiness and desires, hinting at the possibility that Serena Joy, like many women in Gilead, may be a victim of the society she helped create.

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In summary, Serena Joy’s character serves as a catalyst for exploring the themes of feminism, gender roles, and social injustice in The Handmaid’s Tale. Her role reflects the deep complexities and contradictions within Gilead society, shedding light on the struggles women face and the compromises they make to survive in such oppressive circumstances.

The Ambiguous Motivations of Serena Joy

On the surface, Serena appears as a staunch supporter of the oppressive gender roles and the regime that subjugates women. As the wife of a Commander, she benefits from the system that has stripped women of their individual rights and agency, yet she seems to resent this very system. This irony is evident in her hypocritical acts – she advocates for female subservience and domesticity, even though it is clear that she herself feels trapped and unfulfilled in her role as a homemaker.

Serena’s motivations remain ambiguous throughout the novel, and it is difficult to pinpoint her true intentions. It is possible that she participates in the suppression of women out of fear and self-preservation, as she feels powerless without the support of the Commander. Alternatively, Serena may secretly desire change and be frustrated by her own limitations, leading her to lash out at those around her.

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An interesting aspect of Serena’s character is her involvement with the Aunts, who are responsible for indoctrinating and training the Handmaids. Despite her outward support for the system, Serena’s relationship with the Aunts is fraught with tension and competition. This suggests that she may have personal issues with her own sexuality and fertility, which are intimately related to the themes of reproductive rights and inequality in the novel.

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As a narrator, Offred provides a limited perspective on Serena, as her own experiences and biases color her interpretation of events. Offred’s critical views of Serena, and the conflicting accounts of other Handmaids and Marthas, further complicate the portrayal of Serena’s motivations.

The Role of Serena Joy in the Historical and Social Context

It is important to consider Serena’s character not only within the context of the novel but also in relation to historical and social themes. Serena represents the contradictions and complexities of women’s struggles for rights and autonomy throughout history.

In a society where women are relegated to submissive roles, Serena may be seen as a metaphorical reflection of women’s experiences throughout history, particularly in relation to the reproductive rights and gender inequality that have occurred. Her frustrations and unhappiness serve as a reminder of the many women who have been silenced or forced into roles that do not align with their true desires or capabilities.

Overall, Serena Joy’s character in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a complex and multifaceted one. While at times she embodies the suppression and oppression of women, her motivations and desires remain ambiguous. Serena serves as a critical figure for analysis, highlighting the delicate balance between power and powerlessness in a society defined by gender roles and reproductive control.

Serena Joy’s Relationship with Offred

As a former feminist and public speaker, Serena Joy now finds herself in a position of powerlessness and frustration. In the society of Gilead, where women’s roles are strictly defined, Serena Joy is relegated to the role of a Commander’s wife and a homemaker. This shift from having a great deal of influence and agency to being a mere figurehead amplifies Serena Joy’s unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

In her relationship with Offred, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Serena Joy is both a source of repression and a complex character. At times, she acts as a distant and cold figure, treating Offred merely as a servant. However, there are also instances where Serena Joy shows a glimpse of humanity and a desire for connection.

The Commander’s Wife

Serena Joy’s relationship with Offred is defined by the power dynamics and social constraints of Gilead. As the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy is expected to fulfill her duty as a member of the ruling class by participating in the reproductive rituals of the society. However, Serena Joy’s inability to conceive a child leads her to employ Offred as a surrogate, highlighting the extreme measures Gilead takes to control and regulate women’s bodies.

Offred’s role as a Handmaid further complicates Serena Joy’s relationship with her. Offred is a constant reminder of Serena Joy’s failure to fulfill her expected role as a reproductive woman. This inherent tension between the two characters creates a palpable sense of unease and hostility.

The Commander’s Wife as a Multifaceted Character

Despite her involvement in the suppression and mistreatment of the Handmaids, Serena Joy is also depicted as a victim of Gilead’s regime. She is trapped in a loveless marriage, with limited freedom to express her desires and frustrations. Through Serena Joy’s character, Atwood explores the complexities of power and gender inequality in Gilead.

Moreover, Serena Joy’s relationship with Offred exposes the dark underbelly of Gilead’s society. It showcases how even those in positions of power can be subjected to oppression and repression in a rigid and totalitarian regime.

Overall, Serena Joy’s relationship with Offred is a symbol of the larger themes of the novel, including the suppression of women’s rights, social inequality, and the consequences of a patriarchal society. Through her complex portrayal of Serena Joy, Atwood challenges the reader to consider the consequences of gender roles and the impact they have on individuals.

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Serena Joy’s Ultimate Fate

From the beginning of the tale, it is clear that Serena Joy is unhappy in her role as a handmaid’s tale speaker. Despite once being a well-known feminist and author, she is now reduced to a powerless and subservient figure within the household of the Commander and Offred. Serena Joy’s frustration with her limited rights and her inability to have a child of her own contributes to her bitterness and resentment.

Ironically, Serena Joy’s desire for power and control ends up being her downfall. In an attempt to assert her authority, she acts against Offred, orchestrating a plan that leads to her lover’s downfall. However, this act only reveals Serena Joy’s vulnerability and insecurity, as she becomes a pawn in the Commander’s game and loses control over her own fate.

Ultimately, Serena Joy’s fate is a stark reminder of the consequences that can arise when women are denied agency and are forced into subservient roles. Her character serves as a critique of the suppression of women’s rights and the destructive nature of Gilead’s social and reproductive control.

The presence of Serena Joy also highlights the theme of gender inequality and the complex dynamics between women in Atwood’s novel. While Offred initially despises Serena Joy for her complicity in Gilead’s oppressive regime, she later comes to understand the desperation and unhappiness that Serena Joy experiences.

The irony of Serena Joy’s fate is not lost on the reader. In a society that claims to uphold traditional values and promotes the role of women as homemakers and mothers, Serena Joy, as the epitome of the perfect wife and homemaker, ends up being one of the most unhappy characters in the novel.


What role does Serena Joy play in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Serena Joy plays the role of a former televangelist and the wife of Commander Fred Waterford, who is involved in the system that oppresses the handmaids in Gilead.

What are some of the complexities of Serena Joy’s character in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Serena Joy is a complex character because she is both a victim and a perpetrator in the oppressive society of Gilead. On one hand, she is a victim of the society that restricts her freedom and independence. On the other hand, she also plays an active role in the oppression of the handmaids.

How does Serena Joy’s character evolve throughout The Handmaid’s Tale?

Serena Joy’s character goes through a range of emotions and changes throughout the story. At first, she is portrayed as a strict enforcer of the rules and a supporter of the regime. However, as the story progresses, she starts to question her role in the oppression and even shows moments of sympathy towards Offred, the protagonist.

What are some of the key moments that reveal the complexities of Serena Joy’s character in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Some key moments that reveal Serena Joy’s complexities include her interactions and power struggles with Offred, her longing for a child of her own, her involvement in creating the strict rules of the handmaid system, and her secret acts of rebellion against the regime.

How does Serena Joy’s background as a televangelist affect her character in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Serena Joy’s background as a televangelist gives her a unique perspective on power and control. It also adds to her complex relationship with religion, as she is both a faithful believer in the regime’s ideology and a victim of its restrictions. Her past fame and influence also shape her desire for power and authority.

What is Serena Joy’s role in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Serena Joy is a complex character in The Handmaid’s Tale. She is a former TV evangelist and the wife of Commander Waterford. In Gilead, she is the epitome of a patriarchal society, as she plays a significant role in establishing and upholding the oppressive regime. Serena Joy’s role as a Handmaid’s Tale is to be the wife of a Commander and fulfill her duty to produce a child for the household. However, as the story progresses, we see her internal struggle and the consequences of her actions.

How does Serena Joy contribute to the oppression in Gilead?

Serena Joy contributes to the oppression in Gilead in several ways. Firstly, she was one of the architects of the regime, promoting traditional gender roles and advocating for the subjugation of women. As a result, she played a significant role in stripping women of their rights and freedoms. Secondly, Serena Joy actively participates in the enforcement of the system by punishing and controlling Offred and other Handmaids. She exercises her power through emotional manipulation and physical violence, perpetuating the oppressive nature of Gilead. Additionally, Serena Joy willingly embraced her role as a Commander’s wife and benefited from the privileges it brought, further solidifying her position as a supporter of the oppressive regime.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.