After the Birth, Offred goes to her room, exhausted. Today the plaster wreath around the plaster eye in her ceiling looks like a hat with a garland of flowers and fruits. She briefly thinks of the kind of exhaustion that occurs after driving all night, then forces herself into a happier memory.
Though Offred tends to hate Janine, her body sympathizes with Janine’s post-partum exhaustion, suggesting that their common gender and position may override their differences.
Offred flashbacks to Moira’s great escape from the Rachel and Leah Center. (This escape was Moira’s second attempt, after the failed first, when she faked appendicitis.) Offred knows the story indirectly, on a chain that originated with Aunt Lydia telling Janine. Offred imagines how Aunt Lydia would have told Janine the story, thinking that Janine had become a true believer. Offred, however, thinks that Janine wasn’t a true believer, merely so abused that she would do anything for anyone.
Though Offred tends to worry about who’s a true believer or an Eye and who’s a faker, she seems to have confidence in her assessment of Janine, suggesting that Offred may see some of her own passivity and obedience reflected in Janine. Offred’s passionate hatred of Janine suggests as much, as it may be an expression of a kind of self-hatred for her own passivity.
Moira had managed to block a toilet, and called Aunt Elizabeth to see what was the matter. When Aunt Elizabeth came into the bathroom and knelt to fix the toilet, Moira threatened her with a metal spike from the toilet’s flushing mechanism. Moira took Aunt Elizabeth’s cattle prod and whistle and hurried her into the furnace room. Aunt Elizabeth was afraid for her life and didn’t scream. Moira took Aunt Elizabeth’s clothes, gagged and bound Aunt Elizabeth, and managed to escape the Center without scrutiny from the guards.
Offred takes time to remember the details of the story, which evidently give her great pleasure. At the same time, though thoughts of Moira’s rebellion may help Offred cope with her current situation, they might also make Offred more docile, allowing her to live in her own memories rather than rebel in real life.
Offred imagines that Aunt Lydia told Janine to find out if Moira had an accomplice. Janine told one other Handmaid and the story spread. The Handmaids found the story frightening as they were getting used to the confinement of the Rachel and Leah Center. Still, Moira’s ability to disappear was a secret source of strength for the Handmaids. Moira never reappeared.
Despite the possibility that Moira’s rebellion may have had the counterintuitive effect of keeping the other Handmaids docile, this passage illustrates the importance of storytelling, communication and hope.