Offred waits in her room, uncertain what her punishment will be. She imagines how she could try to set fire to the house and kill herself that way, or how she could try to climb out the window, or go cry in front of the Commander, or hang herself in the closet. She also imagines kicking Serena Joy in the head, just like Ofglen did at the Particicution. She imagines walking calmly into the street. Finally she imagines going to Nick’s room. But she’s too tired to do anything. She can feel the ghost of the previous Handmaid encouraging her.
This passage highlights Offred’s ability to inhabit several different possibilities at once, though now we see that this capacity may actually prevent her from pursuing any one action. This adds to the interpretation that her imagination actually hinders her independence, instead of helping her cope with Gilead.
Offred stands, maybe planning to do something, and sees that a black van with the winged eye logo has come to the house. Two men come out and ring the doorbell. Offred regrets not having killed herself. Nick enters her room, and she hates him, thinking he might have been an Eye all along. But he tells her that the Eyes accompanying the van are part of Mayday. He urges Offred to trust him.
Though Offred is recounting her story sometime after all of the action, which suggests that she survives her encounter with the Eyes, she never breaks from the moment to reveal the future. Is this, too, a “reconstruction?” Just as Offred must trust Nick, we must trust Offred.
Serena Joy and the Commander look surprised. They didn’t call the Eyes. Serena Joy asks what Offred did, and they don’t say. The Commander asks for a warrant, and they say they don’t need one, for “violation of state secrets.” The Commander and Serena Joy turn on Offred, now worried that she might have betrayed them. Rita and Cora come out, and Cora cries. Offred thinks of how much Cora wanted a baby.
The Commander’s last-ditch attempt to prevent the Eyes from getting to Offred, and his confused effort to understand what’s happening, make him suddenly profoundly sympathetic. For once, the whole household, and the readers, are aligned with the same shocked emotions. And it becomes clear that everyone in Gilead is breaking the theocratic laws; everyone is guilty because the laws are impossible to obey.
The two Eyes help Offred get into the van. She knows she can’t do anything else, and so she enters to an uncertain fate.
The cliffhanger ending means that the readers must behave like Offred and imagine the many possibilities that may befall her.