Though Serena had been an advocate for traditional values and the establishment of the Gileadean state, her bitterness at the outcome—being confined to the home and having to see her husband copulating with a Handmaid—suggests that spokeswomen for anti-feminist causes might not enjoy getting their way as much as they believe they would. Serena’s obvious unhappiness means that she teeters on the edge of inspiring our sympathy, but she forfeits that sympathy by taking out her frustration on Offred. She seems to possess no compassion for Offred. She can see the difficulty of her own life, but not that of another woman.
The climactic moment in Serena’s interaction with Offred comes when she arranges for Offred to sleep with Nick. It seems that Serena makes these plans out of a desire to help Offred get pregnant, but Serena gets an equal reward from Offred’s pregnancy: she gets to raise the baby. Furthermore, Serena’s offer to show Offred a picture of her lost daughter if she sleeps with Nick reveals that Serena has always known of Offred’s daughter’s whereabouts. Not only has she cruelly concealed this knowledge, she is willing to exploit Offred’s loss of a child in order to get an infant of her own. Serena’s lack of sympathy makes her the perfect tool for Gilead’s social order, which relies on the willingness of women to oppress other women. She is a cruel, selfish woman, and Atwood implies that such women are the glue that binds Gilead.
More characters from The Handmaid’s Tale
Take a Study Break!