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Why Handmaid’s Tale Uses The Bible

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The Handmaid’s Tale’s insidious use of the Bible shows the reason behind Gilead’s acts of violence and why biblical scripture is used to excuse evil.

Blessed be the fruit” is a phrase that has become synonymous with the popular Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu series maintains the book’s use of scripture throughout the show’s four seasons to date. Yet this biblical phrase above any other kickstarts Gilead’s insidious use of the Bible to explain acts of imprisonment, rape, and torture across The Handmaid’s Tale‘s story.

Used as a form of greeting, “Blessed be the fruit” is a prevalent phrase in The Handmaid’s Tale that is responded to with “may the lord open” – suggesting that the people of Gilead are praying to God for fertility. However, the phrase is a shortened version of a biblical quote from Luke 1:42, “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” It seems Atwood has utilized this citation to highlight the American border colony Gilead’s belief that a fertile woman is blessed by God. However, it also encouraged the belief that a fertile woman must carry a child, as is shown in the series when the fertile women are herded into captivity and forced to bear children by those in power.

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However, “Blessed be the fruit“‘s meaning also reveals the true horrors of Gilead and their manipulation of scripture to excuse evil, exemplified by several of the series’ key characters. Aunt Lydia references the tale of Bilhah and Rachel as she explains to the handmaids that fertility is a God-given gift and is for a “biblical purpose like Bilhah served Rachel.” It is this biblical story that is referenced as the basis for the acts of rape in Commander Lawrence’s Gilead. The story, found in Genesis, references an infertile Rachel who offers her handmaid, Bilhah, to her husband to bear his children, meaning the theocratic society of Gilead there uses this story of blessed fruit as a structure to reason, consigning handmaids as enforced surrogates for their high-ranking males.



Elisabeth Moss In The Handmaid's Tale

The infamous Aunt Lydia also frequently uses “blessed are the meek,” a biblical verse from Matthew, to ensure the handmaids remain submissive to the evil they endure. June completes the quote as an act of resistance, “blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” highlighting the hypocrisy of using the Bible to inflict torture and violence on the handmaids while also reclaiming strength from her place of inferiority in The Handmaid’s Tale season 2.

In this way, The Handmaid’s Tale sees its characters utilize scripture to excuse acts of violence and evil. Gilead’s cruelty is built on an insidious version of the Bible, using real Biblical verses, phrases, and tales to encourage the servile conditions of the handmaids. Though “blessed be the fruit” may be a shortened version of the Biblical phrase, it is just the tertiary level of a deeper connection between the Bible and the horrors of Gilead that unfold in The Handmaid’s Tale.


Next: Handmaid’s Tale: Where June & Janine Will Go Next

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