“If you spell Chuck Norris in Scrabble, you win. Forever.”
According to some of you, the games of Scrabble are the most exciting part of The Handmaid’s Tale but do they have any other significance?
A theme in the novel is the power of language. The games of Scrabble that Offred plays with the Commander are competitions over language, the creation of words. Whoever is most skilful at creating words wins the game. This could be seen as a metaphor for the way that the Gilead authorities manipulate people through language, often based on Biblical ideas or names. The fact that the handmaids are assigned new patronymic names (Offred, Ofwarren) suggests how the Western practice of assigning women the man’s last name upon marriage defines women in terms of their men. That the handmaids are reduced to their procreational function parodies the way that some segments of society (the religious right perhaps) are said to view women. Terms like Unwomen and Unbaby also show how language can be manipulated to fit a political ideology. Scrabble may be a harmless game, but in real life the forces that can control language can control society.