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Dreams to Come: Rita's Journey

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> Dreams to Come: Rita's Journey

We don't know how Rita's story started, but like most slaves in Gilead, she would have been forced into a vast complex of cages--perhaps setup in a repurposed cattle barn or warehouse, where groups of women were penned in with metal fencing. 

They'd be forced to share a pair of buckets for waste, while they stood covered in their own filth, disturbed by the sound of distant screams and rifle fire. The passage of time would've been slow, drawing out every second of their torment. 

Guards might come, drag some women out, beat them, and push them back in. Then, at some indeterminate time, they'd blow a whistle and everyone would line up. Someone would yell over a loudspeaker, announcing their fates, and one by one, the guards would grab them and push them onto a bus.

By then, Rita might've figured out that only fertile women were allowed to live full lives. If she knew her fertility status she'd know that she was looking at either a quick death in the colonies or a slow death as a servant. Either way, she'd have to work until she couldn't work any longer.

Courtesy of Hulu

Maybe Rita was relieved when she was told that she would be a martha, or maybe she preferred the quick way out, shoveling bags of irradiated dirt. Either way, at least she lived, and she continued to live day by day, struggling through her duties. 

We know that Gilead had a code of standards for cleanliness, cooking, and the other tasks that marthas performed, and considering the diverse range of women who were forced into the role, we can safely assume they received some sort of education. Like the red center, it would be horrific. Aunts would parade around with cattle prods, taking eyes, hands, and fingers--just enough that they could still work, unless someone crossed a line. 

Marthas, unlike handmaids, were disposable. Many would be dragged out of class and killed, used as examples for the others. There would be trauma, more shock, and eventually submission. The women would learn how to survive, and in doing so, they would learn how to act. Rita may have gone through propaganda sessions, blame circles, and demented slideshows, not unlike those shown by Aunt Lydia to the handmaids, or maybe they didn't bother. They could've confined their education to their duties and corrections. There's no way of knowing.

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The Waterfords

In season four, Serena put in a request for Rita to visit her at the ICC Prison in Toronto. She was hoping to use an ultrasound picture and a pregnancy announcement to manipulate Rita into speaking to the courts in her favor. Tuello surprised Rita with the legal paperwork, and she refused to sign it, saying that she was once considered property of the Waterford household--registered and all.

We haven't been given a timeline, but we do know that Rita arrived at the Waterford household before June did. She cooked, cleaned, and served the couple, and it was the wife's duty to judge the quality of the work, so she would've spent most of her time following Serena's orders. It would be easy to imagine Serena putting her through a sort of hazing period, refusing to accept whatever Rita brought her, testing her, and humiliating her, and when her moods were foul we could bet that Rita would hear about it. 

Irta would go back and forth, moving from one task to the next, always looking for Serena's approval. That could've been the source of her Stockholm tendencies. As Rita worked for approval, she'd develop a sense of loyalty, binding her to Serena. Maybe it was meant to be that way--marthas bound to wives, eager to do everything they asked. Gilead had its mind games, and that is exactly the kind of thing they'd think up, and it's a theocracy. They would want the marthas to be loyal, obedient, and pert--smiling faces, enjoying their work, tied to the task. We don't know the exact brainwashing techniques that were used on them, but it would've been possible to acclimate them, get them moving, and eventually turn chores into an eager obligation.

Courtesy of Hulu

In season two, June asked Rita to become Nichole's godmother. Serena and Fred were away at diplomatic talks in Canada, and they were being watched by young, overeager guardian named Isaac. Rita responded to June by telling that he was maybe 20 years, and he could crack her jaw and nobody would flinch. Nobody was protecting her. Nobody watched out for her. She had no guarantee of safety whatsoever--quite the opposite, marthas could expect abuse, and not just abuse. 

Over the years, as Gilead reverted back to a simpler time, they saw no problem beating a slave, and doing whatever they wanted with them. They could violate them, sock them, torture them, poison them, or frame them--all of those things and more; they could've easily been killed or worse--tortured, mutilated--many were violated, and while that must've been frowned upon, it may not have carried the same stigma attached to violating a handmaid. Marthas are already infertile--disposable, nothing more than property, like a work mule or a horse.

As Gilead's ideals took hold, and the time before was forgotten, mistreatment and abuse may have even been encouraged or required. Marthas were of a lesser class, put there as a punishment from God. Wives could've sunk into the mindset that they needed to be whipped, and commanders would consider it necessary to keep them in line. In times past, they would even have a post or a tree where they'd tie the slave up and whip them. Since the martha was said to be sent to her posting by God, or his acting body on earth, then she would have lower status than a slave in the 19th century. They'd come with a warning label, like a sticker on her forehead saying that they were bad.

Courtesy of Hulu

Somehow the marthas did seem to fall into something resembling contentment. Maybe it was the rote nature of their tasks, their diverse activities, and their opulent environment. It might have also been their proximity to the black market.They'd have hope, something to work towards, and an outlet for their frustrations, which is exactly what Gilead intended.  Commander Lawrence said that they needed to let them blow off some steam to make things run more smoothly. It was also in the government's interest to see what was coming in through the black market. It was bound to exist. Better to keep an eye on them, making sure nothing too dangerous was coming in. That was Nick's job as an eye, to ask questions when he made shipments to the marthas in the Jezebels. 

Rita would've been aware of these things, and she'd also be a part of a large body of communication that would spread through the districts. The marthas seemed to know everything, and nothing big happened without their knowing about it. But Rita probably didn't help with the black market. She kept her hands clean. She was quiet, and she did what she was told. 

At some point she would've met Serena in the middle, found a sweet spot, a way to stay out of her way, tiny details she could add to the food, little things she could do to make the house a home. It was the kind of thing they must've liked the marthas to do, just like baking bread from scratch. She'd want to do her very best, and eventually that would become part of her drive. She'd only have so many ingredients to cook with. She'd love some cinnamon, some oranges and apples, so she'd trade, offer butter, find ways to work the grocery stores. It made the household better, and it drove the overall demand for goods.

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