Getting the best of you.

In compliance with this week’s theme, here are some nifty books that conjure up the color red.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

WHAT IS IT?: It’s one of my all-time favorite books, that’s what! Imagine a world where women have no reproductive rights (weird, RIGHT?). Offred, the main character, must reproduce with the Commander OR ELSE. Other women are forced to work in kitchens (the Marthas) or in brothels (the Jezebels). Offred must decide if she’s going to let the man keep sticking it to her (literally) OR NOT.

WHY THE RED?: It’s a dang double meaning. The Handmaids give birth and thus wear the markings of fertility and menstruation. However, they must also carry the weight of adultery and sex with them, thus making red a symbol of sexual “sinfulness.”

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

“The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother’s life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter.”

WHAT IS IT?: I read this book several years ago, and it’s Diamant’s take on the incredibly minor Biblical character Dinah. I really enjoyed it for the strong female protagonist that is Dinah. Her life is CRAP (mostly because of the men in her life), but she perseveres.

WHY THE RED?: In the book, women must spend their menstruation period in a red tent. This gives the women a break from their daily responsibilities and allows them to bond and create a sisterhood. A SISTERHOOD OF MENSES.


Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night.”

WHAT IS IT?: One of Poe’s short stories, “Masque” tells a tale of a prince determined to outlive the Red Death plague. Prince Prospero decides to camp out at a castle and party like it’s 1499, keeping the Red Death at bay. DOES IT WORK? I don’t know, IS POE KNOWN FOR HIS WARM AND FUZZY STORIES? My students loved reading this story and discussing the symbolism.

WHY THE RED?: The Red Death, yo.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”

WHAT IS IT?: I think we all know.

WHY THE RED?: Holden Caulfied’s red hunting hat is meant to stand out. However, Holden also feels self-conscious about the hat. He wants to be around people and attract them with his hat, but he also wants to isolate himself from people. I think the red hat really captures the “in-between” and awkward period of adolescence.


I left out some stories I haven’t read (hey, Scarlett Letter!), but there are many books and stories out there with red symbolism or motifs. What else can we come up with?

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