The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid’s Tale Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Offred dreams first that she has seen and picked up her daughter, and then that her mother has come to take care of her. When she truly wakes up, she wonders if she’s been drugged. She sits on the Faith cushion and slowly eats breakfast, noting that her eggcup looks like a skirt, and taking pleasure in the beautiful egg.
After the night’s surprising moment of connection with Nick, Offred dreams of other connections with loved ones. The egg wearing a skirt is an amusing reminder of the household’s hopes for, and the way it views, Offred.
Themes
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
A red van, a Birthmobile, comes to the house to pick up Offred. A Guardian drives her and several other Handmaids to Ofwarren’s (Janine’s) house for her birth. One of the other handmaids cries with joy. The Handmaids are allowed more freedom than usual in their behavior on birth days.
Gilead’s laws are less strict towards Handmaids on Birth Days, which demonstrates Gilead’s canny balancing of restriction and release, to ensure that Handmaid life is tolerable.
Themes
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred knows that the chance of a healthy, living, normal-bodied baby is just one in four, because of many different problems that lead to sterility: radiation and pollution, atomic power plant mishaps, pesticides, syphilis, birth control pills, and women having their tubes tied. Offred remembers Aunt Lydia scorning the women who sterilized themselves and calling them Jezebels.
The blights that led to Gilead’s fertility issues relate both to environmental issues and issues relating to the sexual liberation of the 1960’s. Unsurprisingly, women get the blame for trying to control the results of their sexual activity.
Themes
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred goes deeper into her flashback from the Rachel and Leah Center. She remembers Aunt Lydia explaining that some women self-sterilized because they thought the world was ending. Offred’s school desk had love messages carved into it, but none after the mid-eighties, when schools were closing because there weren’t enough children. As Aunt Lydia talks about the Handmaids’ importance, Offred wants to kill her.
Offred’s rage at Aunt Lydia about these issues could have several sources. Offred may be particularly upset that Aunt Lydia is criticizing women for trying to be responsible. Or perhaps Offred regrets the loss of freedom and love that the desk carvings represent.
Themes
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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Back in the present day, the Birthmobile arrives at Ofwarren’s house, and we learn that Ofwarren is Janine, whom Offred disdains and thinks of as a “whiny bitch.” Women must give birth without painkillers or medical intervention because that’s what’s in the bible.
Throughout the book, we’ll see Offred’s shocking lack of sympathy for Janine. Janine isn’t even necessarily a true believer, but she’s weak-willed, and Offred finds that even more deplorable.
Themes
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred imagines how the Wives talk about the Handmaids. One might say that a Handmaid is like a daughter to her, but the others talk about the Handmaids as pesky animals or objects who are not to be trusted.
Though Offred dislikes the Wives for disdaining the Handmaids, Offred holds similar opinions towards Janine.
Themes
Gender Roles Theme Icon