The Handmaid’s Tale

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The novel’s protagonist and first-person narrator, Handmaid of the Commander and Serena Joy, former wife of Luke, and lover of Nick. We never learn her real name (Offred means “Of Fred,” her Commander), and we know little about her physical appearance. She has brown hair, stands about five foot seven, and is 33 years old. Before Gilead, she had a daughter with Luke at about age 25. Moira was her best friend from college, and she had a rocky relationship with her radical, outrageous mother. Though Offred is rebellious, even violent, in her thoughts, and full of passionate memories, she seems stolid and devout to outsiders, doing her best to obey Gilead’s laws. Readers may be quick to judge Offred for her passivity, but her keen observations and honest emotions, even after the terror and brainwashing that she’s encountered, demonstrate the limitations of Gilead’s power over its subjects.

Offred Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale

The The Handmaid’s Tale quotes below are all either spoken by Offred or refer to Offred. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender Roles Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin Company edition of The Handmaid’s Tale published in 1986.
Chapter 1 Quotes

We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Color Red
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel opens with Offred recalling the time she spent inside a building that was formerly used as a school, which the reader later learns is the Rachel and Leah Re-Education Center, or the "Red Center." Offred has described the gymnasium, imagining the activities that took place there before the school was turned into the Red Center––activities that invoke the lively, happy, and carefree mood of youth. She says that the atmosphere now is one of "yearning," although it's not clear what for.

This abstract longing is explained by the fact that people of Offred's age and older were alive before the United States became the Republic of Gilead, and thus remember what the world was like before; however, their memories are vague, and their nostalgia for the past turns into a desire for an unknown future. The word "insatiability"––meaning a hunger or desire that cannot be satisfied––indicates the shame associated with desire in the world of the novel. Indeed, "insatiable" is often used in a sexual context, and Offred's words thus evoke disgust and condemnation of women's sexuality––a phenomenon that exists in our modern world, yet is vastly exaggerated in Gilead. In this context, the women's "insatiable" desire is simply for a world in which they are free and equal.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Handmaid’s Tale quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 2 Quotes

Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Eye
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Having recalled the time she spent sleeping in the gymnasium of the Red Center, Offred has moved on to describe a second room, which we later learn is her bedroom in the Commander's house. She has detailed the sparse furnishings and the plastered-over light socket in the ceiling, which reminds her of an eye socket. Offred notes that the rug looks like "folk art," reflective of a cultural preference for artifacts that are handmade by women. She observes that this reflects "a return to traditional values" and the principle "waste not want not." Offred's statement that she is not being wasted highlights the way in which women are used like tools or instruments in Gilead, treated as objects with no value beyond their designated function, which, for Offred, is her fertility. 

Once again, Offred invokes the moral disdain for desire, and particularly desire felt by women. She expresses the view that because she is "not being wasted," it is strange or illogical that she should "want." This reveals that Offred has internalized the idea that women are more like objects than people, and that it is abnormal or morally wrong for women to experience the most basic human emotions, including desire. Her use of a well-known saying highlights how deeply embedded this idea is within the culture of Gilead. 

I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has continued describing her room in the Commander's house, and recalled Aunt Lydia telling her to "think of it as like being in the army." She describes the single bed in the room, saying that the only thing that happens there is sleep ("or no sleep"), and says that she "rations" her thoughts. This statement highlights the austere, dull scarcity of life in Gilead. Not only has Offred lost access to material pleasures, intimacy with others, and freedom, but even her thoughts are restricted and impoverished by the oppressive world in which she lives. Offred's admission that she tries not to "think too much" suggests that too much thinking is dangerous, especially for women who, like her, live such tightly controlled lives. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has described a routine shopping outing with Ofglen, the only time the women are allowed out of the house. Nick has winked at her, which makes her worry that he is an Eye. Offred and Ofglen pass a checkpoint manned by two Guardians, one of whom looks at Offred's face; as she walks away, Offred swings her hips, hoping to inspire sexual desire in the Guardians and saying she enjoys the power of her desirability, which she compares to the "power of a dog bone." This scene reveals that the intense repression in Gilead has not successfully eliminated sexual desire and activity, but simply forced it to be expressed in more secretive and subtle ways. Similarly, although Offred's power and freedom are severely restricted, they cannot be erased altogether; her "passive" power remains. 

Although the particular situation described in this passage seems far from life in the contemporary United States, the fundamental questions it raises are nonetheless relevant. What does it mean to have "passive power"? Does this power ultimately make Offred more or less free? By comparing herself to a dog bone, Offred emphasizes that she is treated as an object. Yet at the same time, she illustrates that even sexual objects exert influence over others––indeed, it is precisely this influence that threatens the repressive and misogynistic ideology of Gilead. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Aunt Lydia (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has continued to describe her walk through town, reflecting on the differences between the world she currently lives in and the society in which she grew up. She has recalled that there were "rules" for women's behavior in the time before Gilead, such as not opening the door to a stranger and not turning around if someone whistled at you. She remembers Aunt Lydia telling her that in the old days, women only had "freedom to," but now they have "freedom from," and that she should be grateful for this. To some extent, Aunt Lydia's words seem ridiculous; clearly, Offred is far less free than she was before she was made a Handmaid, proving that "freedom from" is not equal to "freedom to," and perhaps shouldn't be considered "freedom" at all.

On the other hand, Offred's description of the "rules" for women that existed in the past demonstrates that during this time women were not completely free, either. Although Aunt Lydia exaggerates how terrible life was for women before the Gilead regime, Offred's comparison reminds the reader that throughout history women have been oppressed and controlled, often with the explanation that this is for their own protection. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is lying in bed, and has recalled hazy memories from different moments in her life, featuring Moira, her mother, and her daughter. She has recalled waking up from a drug-induced sleep to find that her daughter had been taken from her and assigned to another family. She confesses that she wants to believe that "this is a story I'm telling," as this will help her to survive. There are several layers of meaning to Offred's wish. On the surface, she seems to be referring to the importance of storytelling as a way to preserve one's dignity, and to feel loved and valued. Offred believes she will have "a better chance" to survive if she can imagine one day escaping her life as a Handmaid and telling her story to a willing listener. 

However, although the reader does not yet know it, the novel is a story that Offred is telling; the "Historical Notes" at the end of the book reveal that the narrative was found recorded on audio cassettes in Maine. This suggests that perhaps Offred means she wishes her experiences were only a story. Even while relating the terrible events that happened to her, she wishes to believe they are only a story in order to preserve her sanity and dignity. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has described the time when she first arrived at the Commander's house and spent hours looking around her new bedroom. This memory has then made her think of hotel rooms, and the time she spent having an affair with Luke while he was still married. She reflects that at the time they thought they had "such problems" and did not appreciate how happy they truly were.

This passage conveys the clichéd wisdom of not being able to appreciate what you have until it's gone. Regardless of how difficult it might have been to conduct their affair in secret, at least Offred and Luke were free, and loved each other. At the same time, Offred does not condemn or resent her former inability to enjoy the freedom she had, asking rhetorically how she could have known otherwise.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is once again lost in her memories, recalling Aunt Lydia describing, horrified, the way women used to dress with, while meanwhile Moira was planning an "underwhore" party in which she would sell lingerie to women. With the benefit of hindsight, Offred sees how the extreme misogyny in Gilead came to be, though she notes that at the time people dismissed evidence that society was headed in this direction. As a result, society changed in a severe way without people noticing until it was too late. This is both an accurate description of historical change and a powerful warning about the world in which we live. The Handmaid's Tale carefully shows how features of our present world might be distorted with nightmarish results, and this passage serves as a warning about how easily this could happen.

Chapter 11 Quotes

I’ve crossed no boundaries, I’ve given no trust, taken no risk, all is safe. It’s the choice that terrifies me. A way out, a salvation.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has gone to the doctor for her monthly checkup, and the doctor has offered to have sex with her in order to help her get pregnant, an illegal offence for which they could both be killed. Although Offred refuses, she is left terrified by the incident––not because she has done anything wrong, but because she is frightened by "the choice" presented before her. This passage shows that in the tightly controlled world of Gilead, Offred has begun to lose faith in herself. After all, before she became a Handmaid, Offred attempted to escape from Gilead with her daughter and Luke, an act requiring enormous courage. However, in her present isolated condition, Offred is much more timid and passive, implying that resistance only becomes possible through solidarity and love. 

At the same time, Offred's fear also emphasizes just how precarious and impossible a situation she is in. She reassures herself that "all is safe," however in reality she is not safe, no matter how submissively she obeys the rules. In fact, if she is not eventually able to get pregnant, she will be exiled or put to death anyway, an outcome that would actually mean it would have been safer to have had forbidden sex with the doctor. Given these unknowable factors, it is hardly surprising that Offred is so overwhelmed and terrified by the decision of whether or not to sleep with him.

Chapter 12. Quotes

I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is having a bath, which she has at regular times that are not chosen by her. The bath has been run by Cora, who sits outside, and items such as a mirror, razor, and lock are all forbidden. In the bath is one of the only times when Offred is able to touch her own hair, which she enjoys; however, she refuses to look at her body, resenting the fact that it "determines me so completely." This passage emphasizes the fact that Offred has been reduced from being a person to being a body, an object or tool appreciated only for its use. The fact that her bath is scheduled and controlled further confirms the way in which Offred is treated like a tool or animal, rather than a person.

Note that this treatment creates a different kind of body shame from the kind promoted by a religious mindset, but a body shame nonetheless. Offred's thoughts indicate that there is not much difference between being treated as a sex object and being "valued" for your fertility––both are equally degrading.

Chapter 13 Quotes

But maybe boredom is erotic, when women do it, for men.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred reflects on the fact that she has so little to do, and wishes she could pursue a hobby, such as weaving or knitting. She recalls paintings of harems that depict women looking bored, and suggests that perhaps men find boredom erotic, "when women do it." Out of context, this thought is fairly innocuous––all kinds of things can be erotic, some of them rather unexpected.

However, bearing in mind the way that women are treated in Gilead, Offred's words take on a particularly sinister meaning. The "boredom" that she experiences results from the fact that she has no freedom, independence, or access to resources. If men find this erotic, it suggests that men's sexual attraction to women includes the desire to control and belittle women.

Chapter 18 Quotes

But this is wrong, nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

While sneaking downstairs to steal a daffodil, Offred has run into Nick, and the two share an erotically-charged moment. Back in her room, Offred remembers lying in bed with Luke while she was pregnant, and thinks that if she thought she'd never have sex again she'd die. She then corrects herself, saying that people can live without sex but not without love. This view resonates ambiguously with the events of the novel. Despite the sexual repression by the state, Gilead is a world filled with sex––from the Ceremony to Jezebel's to the illicit acts and gestures performed in secret between various characters. This indicates that people's drive to have sex will survive even the strictest repression of sexuality.  

On the other hand, all that sex doesn't seem to make people very happy or provide much meaning to their lives. And for Offred herself, sex has come to play a rather negative role in her life––yet she is sustained by her memories of love. Indeed, this quotation relates back to Offred's statement that believing she is "telling a story" helps her to stay alive. Both strategies highlight the fundamental importance in trusting that there are people out there in the world who love and care about you. 

Chapter 21 Quotes

You wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one. It isn’t what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Offred’s Mother
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is at Janine's house while Janine is giving birth, and has been recalling her time in the Red Center, when the women were shown videos of "unwomen." One of these videos showed Offred's mother at a feminist rally, and Offred then remembers the fights she and her mother used to have about feminism. At the Red Centre, she recalls thinking about her mother, who had "wanted a women's culture." The Red Centre––along with the whole structure of Handmaids, wives, and other castes of women––is, as Offred reflects in this passage, a "women's culture" of sorts. Socialization is segregated by gender, so women spend time almost exclusively with other women, engaged in "feminine" activities such as housework.

This passage suggests that Offred believes radical feminism was part of a chain of events that led to the establishment of Gilead. While she acknowledges that the hyper-religious, restricted world she now lives in is far from what her mother and other feminists intended, it seems that the backlash against radical feminist activity helped to bring about this new, ultra traditional era. Her comment "Be thankful for small mercies" is largely ironic, a reference to the religious imperative that Offred be grateful for the hellish world in which she now lives. On the other hand, we could perhaps read a note of sincerity in it, too – although the "women's culture" Offred now lives in is misogynist and oppressive, there are several moments when she finds strength and solidarity through her connections to other women, such as Moira, Ofglen, and the previous Handmaid. 

Chapter 23 Quotes

But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control…maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has returned to the Commander's house after the birth of Janine's baby, where she thinks about the nature of storytelling and memory. She reflects on the "temptation" to forgive, and muses that perhaps the Gilead regime is "about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it." Offred contrasts this to the thought that Gilead is about "control"; yet her words suggest that being forgiven is perhaps an even more extreme version of control, because control itself consists of "who can do what to whom."

This passage is an important reminder that even the strictest totalitarian regimes are made up of thousands of interpersonal relationships. Offred's thoughts point out that even the most cruel and oppressive people want to be forgiven for the suffering they inflict on others.

Chapter 24 Quotes

You can think clearly only with your clothes on.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has secretly spent an evening with the Commander, playing an illicit game of Scrabble and then sharing a kiss. Back in her room, she sits on her bed with her clothes on, waiting before taking them off because she can't think clearly without them.

This observation reveals the complexity of the various forms of oppression to which women are subjected in the novel. In many ways, Offred's extremely modest and unwieldy Handmaid's uniform is oppressive––it robs her of individuality, and implies that her body is shameful. On the other hand, this quotation shows that nakedness can also be disempowering. Although her uniform is somewhat ridiculous and uncomfortable, Offred evidently feels protected by it. Her words suggest that concealing her body allows freedom and clarity in her mind. 

Chapter 28 Quotes

He doesn’t mind this, I thought. He doesn’t mind it at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other’s, anymore. Instead, I am his.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Luke
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has finally explained how the United States turned into the Republic of Gilead, recalling the time when, like all other women, she was fired from her job and had her bank account drained. She explains that she considered protesting, but that Luke encouraged her not to for her own safety. Instead, she became a housewife, and in this passage she remembers suspecting that Luke might have liked this shift in power. This is a surprising and important moment in the narrative, when Offred's relationship with Luke is shown to be more complicated than it first appears. There is no doubt that Offred loves Luke––the memory of him and hope that she might one day see him again sustains her, allowing her to survive her torturous life as a Handmaid. 

On the other hand, even Offred and Luke's devotion to one another cannot remain untainted by sexism and by the wider political situation in which they find themselves. Although Offred loves Luke, she can't help but suspect that he doesn't mind or even enjoys the power that the new state of affairs gives him over her. However, she never asks him about it, implying that sexism creates a communicative gulf between men and women, even those who love and trust each other. It seems that only in a truly equal society would men and women be able to love and communicate with total honesty. 

Chapter 33 Quotes

But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Ofred and Ofglen have gone to a Prayvaganza, and Oflgen observes that Janine has been moved to another family because the baby she had turned out to be a "shredder." Ofglen reveals that Janine thinks she has been punished by God for having sex with the doctor in order to get pregnant; Offred reflects that Janine only thinks this way to give her life a sense of meaning, a coherent "plot." This thought draws an interesting parallel between religion and storytelling.

Just as Janine and other true believers convince themselves that they live in order to please God, Offred gives her own life meaning by making a story out of it. This comparison allows Offred to feel sympathy for even the most reprehensible characters in the novel, as she believes their actions are motivated by their own fear and suffering. 

Chapter 40 Quotes

All I can hope for is a reconstruction: the way love feels is always only approximate.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Compelled by Serena Joy, Offred has gone to Nick's apartment in order to have sex with him in the hope of getting pregnant. Offred tells several versions of her encounter with Nick; the first portrays the experience as positive and passionate, the second as awkward and transactional. She then admits that it is hard to accurately recreate what happened between them, saying "the way love feels is always only approximate."

Here Offred connects the experience of love to storytelling and memory. Indeed, these two themes are closely intertwined in the narrative, as many of Offred's memories are of times when she felt loved. However, the connection also illuminates the fact that both love and memory are elusive––we can never be sure of our perception of either. 

Chapter 46 Quotes

And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Eye
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

The Eye van has arrived at the Commander's house to take Offred away, and Offred is terrified, wishing that she had killed herself while she had the chance. However, Nick has told her that the people in the van are actually members of the Resistance posing as Eyes; this is somewhat supported by the fact that they refuse to tell the Commander and Serena Joy why they are arresting Offred (although this is not conclusive). The final sentence of Offred's narrative describes her getting in the van, unsure if she is stepping into darkness or light. "Darkness" in this passage symbolizes suffering, death, and the meaninglessness of Offred's life if she is indeed killed by the state. "Light" is hope, morality, and the possibility of escape from Gilead, or even the end of the regime altogether.

This final sentence leaves the reader unsure of Offred's fate; given everything else that has happened in the novel, it seems almost equally likely that Offred will die or be saved. This ambiguity is connected to the novel's ambivalent presentation of human nature. Every major character in the narrative has the capacity to act in a cruel and selfish way, while also possessing at least some redeeming features. Offred's unknown destiny thus emphasizes the fact that people's behavior is difficult to predict, and the fate of the world is thus equally hard to determine. 

Get the entire The Handmaid’s Tale LitChart as a printable PDF.
The handmaid s tale.pdf.medium

Offred Character Timeline in The Handmaid’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the character Offred appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The novel begins with the first-person narrator, Offred, describing the old gymnasium where she has been sleeping, and the sense of longing and... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred, like the other women, wishes that she could speak to the guards, longing for some... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Though Offred and the other women aren’t allowed to speak to each other, they manage to draw... (full context)
Chapter 2
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred describes a different bedroom, with traditional, safe décor. Its distinguishing characteristic is a plastered-over hole... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
The bell rings to mark time, like in a nunnery, and Offred puts on her red uniform, including shoes, gloves, and a long modest dress. She wears... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Offred walks through the house, a stately, traditional home with many restrictions. She’s not allowed to... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred recalls a conversation she heard between Rita and Cora, when Rita said that she would... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Despite Rita’s unfriendliness, Offred wishes that she could stay, talk and gossip like in the old times. Sometimes the... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Rita gives Offred the tokens for food, with images of food on them. Rita tells Offred to tell... (full context)
Chapter 3
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred walks through the garden on the way to the shops. The red tulips have bloomed... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred recalls five weeks ago, when she arrived at the house. In her flashback, Serena Joy... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Still in the flashback to five weeks ago, Offred remembers why Serena Joy looks familiar: from a religious television program called the Growing Souls... (full context)
Chapter 4
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Out of the flashback, Offred continues on her shopping trip. The path through the garden looks like a part in... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Nick winks at Offred, which alarms her. She doesn’t understand the gesture, which is a risky move that she... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred waits at the corner, recalling Aunt Lydia’s advice to be patient and to imagine herself... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...Guardians show respect to the Handmaids by saluting them. One of the Guardians looks around Offred’s wings at her face, a rebellious act that makes Offred imagine coming back to him... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Still, after passing the barricade Offred walks away in a seductive manner, enjoying her slight sense of power, and hoping that... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen continue on their shopping walk, passing beautifully maintained but childless neighborhoods in the... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Offred remembers the time before women were protected, both the constant precautions she had to take... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen pass the clothing store called Lilies of the Field, which has an image... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen go to the meat store, called All Flesh. Offred gets a chicken wrapped... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
A group of possibly Japanese tourists approaches on the street. Offred stares at the women’s knee-length skirts and high heels, thinking that the shoes look like... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
The interpreter, with a winged eye pin, asks if the tourists can take pictures of Offred and Ofglen. Offred denies the request, remembering that Aunt Lydia told the Handmaids to be... (full context)
Chapter 6
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
As Offred and Ofglen return from their shopping trip, Ofglen asks to go by the church. Offred... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen look at the small old church and graveyard. Ofglen seems to pray, and... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen go to look at the real source of their interest, the red-brick Wall.... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...the Republic of Gilead, and some informant must have ratted them out to the government. Offred feels nothing for the men, but she’s glad they aren’t Luke. (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred looks at the bloody red smile on the bag again. The red reminds her of... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Ofglen seems to be crying beside Offred. Offred isn’t sure if this is genuine emotion or just for show, and she doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 7
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred lies in bed, thinking about the difference between the active word lie and the passive... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...an earring, one gold fingernail, and smoking. Moira wants to go get a beer, but Offred is working on a paper. Moira just wrote a paper on date rape, which Offred... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred switches to another memory, an older one. She remembers being in a cold park with... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred can’t remember what happens next in her memories. She remembers a different time, when she... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred wishes that she could believe that “this is a story I’m telling,” because then she... (full context)
Chapter 8
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The weather stays good, reminding Offred of the old days of dresses and ice cream. Back at the Wall there are... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
As they walk away, Ofglen comments on the beautiful May day. Offred remembers how Mayday used to be used in war for pilots to signal distress. Luke... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At Offred’s house, Nick polishes the Commander’s Whirlwind. The red tulips look like empty chalices, and Offred... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred sees Serena Joy sitting in the garden, and thinks that her name sounds stupid, like... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred looks at Serena Joy’s sunken profile as she passes. Her face reminds Offred of fallen... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred enters the kitchen, where the smell of bread reminds her of the past and mothers,... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred goes upstairs, pausing to enjoy the light through the stained glass. The convex mirror looks... (full context)
Chapter 9
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
As Offred waits in her room, she thinks about the household’s previous Handmaid. When she first arrived,... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred returns to her main memory of examining her bedroom when she arrived at the house.... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Though Offred doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase, suspecting it might be Latin, she is happy... (full context)
Chapter 10
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred sometimes sings herself “Amazing Grace,” a song now banned for the word “free.” She also... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
It’s hot and soon Offred will wear her cotton summer dresses. She remembers Aunt Lydia disdaining the scantily-clad women of... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred retreats into another memory, of Moira. In the memory, Moira is planning an “underwhore” party... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred sits at the window seat, which has a cushion that says “faith” on it (though... (full context)
Chapter 11
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred went to the doctor yesterday morning for her regular monthly checkup. She remembers the appointment... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The doctor gets close to the sheet, offering to help Offred. At first she thinks he might help her find Luke. Then he lifts the sheet,... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
The doctor is sympathetic but also enjoying the situation. Offred thinks it’s too dangerous, frightened that it might be a trap. She could get killed... (full context)
Chapter 12.
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Back in the present day, Offred takes her bath. The bath has no mirror, razors, lock, or other items that could... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Offred feels strange to be naked, and wonderingly remembers wearing a swimsuit. She doesn’t look at... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
In a spontaneous flashback, Offred remembers her daughter as a baby. She remembers when a stranger tried to steal her... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred imagines her daughter as a ghost who died at age five. Offred laments the loss... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Cora tells Offred to hurry up. Offred tries to make herself very clean, since her bath opportunities are... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Cora brings Offred her dinner, and Offred is pleased that Cora bothers to knock at her door. Rita... (full context)
Chapter 13
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred thinks about how she has too much time, and wishes she could have a hobby... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred lies on a rug, practicing pelvic exercising like Aunt Lydia advised. Offred remembers the naptime... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Offred remembers Moira’s arrival at the Rachel and Leah Center, three weeks after her own. She... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Offred remembers the previous week, when Janine began crying during Testifying, and the others hated her... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back in the present time, Offred thinks about her body, her blood like red waves, and her failure to become pregnant.... (full context)
Chapter 14
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred goes downstairs, passing the eye-like mirror. She kneels in the sitting room. The room is... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Cora, Rita and Nick enter. Nick touches his foot to Offred’s. Nick touches again and Offred moves again, unsure of his intentions. Serena Joy arrives in... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...turns on the TV news, which shows the Angels attacking the Baptists in the Appalachians. Offred isn’t sure if the TV shows reality or if everyone’s an actor. The TV then... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred retreats into a memory, when she still had her old name. She imagines getting into... (full context)
Chapter 15
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...a black suit. He unlocks the Bible from its box and sits down to read. Offred tries to imagine his point of view, scrutinized like this. She imagines his penis as... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred has a flashback to the Rachel and Leah Center, and remembers listening to a tape... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers meeting up again with Moira in the bathroom. Moira planned to escape by pretending... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back in the present time, the Commander finishes reading. Offred imagines the bible pages feeling powder-paper makeup. Serena Joy silently cries. As Offred prays “Nolite... (full context)
Chapter 16
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred lies on her back on Serena Joy’s canopy bed, clothed except for her underpants. The... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
After coming, the Commander leaves quickly and politely, which Offred finds somehow funny. Serena Joy makes Offred leave immediately, although she’s supposed to lie down... (full context)
Chapter 17
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred returns to her bedroom and finds her pat of butter half-melted in her shoe. She... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred lies in bed, imagining the plastered eye in her ceiling staring at her. She looks... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred carefully walks downstairs and resolves to steal a daffodil. She hears Nick’s footsteps. They’re both... (full context)
Chapter 18
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred lies in bed, disturbed and aroused by her encounter with Nick. She remembers spending time... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred believes in several different fates for Luke. First she imagines Luke as a corpse lying... (full context)
Chapter 19
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred dreams first that she has seen and picked up her daughter, and then that her... (full context)
Fertility 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.... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred knows that the chance of a healthy, living, normal-bodied baby is just one in four,... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred goes deeper into her flashback from the Rachel and Leah Center. She remembers Aunt Lydia... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Offred imagines how the Wives talk about the Handmaids. One might say that a Handmaid is... (full context)
Chapter 20
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred sees the fancy birth day buffet laid out for the Wives, including wine and oranges.... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred has another flashback to the Rachel and Leah Center. She remembers the weekly movie time,... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...one film of the Unwomen that Aunt Lydia shows at the Rachel and Leah Center, Offred sees her mother at a feminist rally. Offred has a further flashback, to her mother... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers how her lively mother would come over to dinner with her and Luke and... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred feels that her mother put a burden on her to justify her mother’s choices and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...juice to each other and manage to whisper to each other as they do so. Offred asks the Handmaid next to her if she knows Moira, but she doesn’t. Offred, too,... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
...walks around distractedly, and poops in a portable toilet in the middle of the room. Offred knows this is her second baby. Their juice had alcohol in it, which the Wives... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...baby, a girl, seems to be healthy and normal, and the Handmaids smile as one. Offred remembers her and Luke’s joy when she gave birth to her daughter. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The Birthmobile brings the Handmaids back home. Offred feels fake milk in her breasts. Offred ponders her own lack of success. She thinks... (full context)
Chapter 22
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
After the Birth, Offred goes to her room, exhausted. Today the plaster wreath around the plaster eye in her... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred flashbacks to Moira’s great escape from the Rachel and Leah Center. (This escape was Moira’s... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred imagines that Aunt Lydia told Janine to find out if Moira had an accomplice. Janine... (full context)
Chapter 23
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back in the present time, Offred muses about how all of her memories are “reconstructions.” If she ever manages to escape... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred backs up into an explanatory flashback. Still on the day that Janine gave birth, Offred... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At nine pm, Offred goes to meet the Commander in his office, as Nick previously instructed her. Offred is... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...Commander has posed himself impressively in front of the fireplace. When he says hello to Offred, she feels she might cry. The Commander is friendly and sits across from her, showing... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred finds this hysterical, but she keeps herself expressionless. She understands that this once innocent game... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
At the end, the Commander thanks Offred and asks her to kiss him. Offred considers following Moira’s lead and making a weapon... (full context)
Chapter 24
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred goes back to bed, trying to get some perspective. We learn for the first time... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers a documentary about World War II that she saw as a child. Her mother... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
All of a sudden, Offred starts spastically laughing. She desperately tries to be quiet, hiding herself in the closet, her... (full context)
Chapter 25
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred wakes suddenly when Cora drops the breakfast tray. She’d fallen asleep in the closet, which... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...May, and now it’s summertime, and the tulips are gone. Returning from a grocery trip, Offred sees Serena Joy cutting off the tulips’ seed pods, destroying the fruit to make next... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred thinks more about the garden, the irises and bleeding hearts that seem so feminine and... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and the Commander continue to meet in secret, when Nick signals, either by polishing the... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
At first Offred found the Commander’s requests funny and anticlimactic, compared to the sexual perversions she’d expected. At... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At first, Offred turned down the Vogue, but the Commander said that she was allowed to read it.... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred asked why the Commander had saved a magazine that should have been burned, and the... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At their third meeting, Offred requested lotion. The Commander laughed at the fact that she’d been using butter, and she... (full context)
Chapter 26
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred found the next Ceremony awkward in a new way. Before, she and probably the Commander... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Offred remembers Aunt Lydia talking about future generations, when the population will rebound and there will... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred feels that she’s become a traditional-type mistress to the Commander. She thinks that maybe Serena... (full context)
Chapter 27
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen go shopping on a hot summer day. They pass the fish store, and... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen have become more familiar, and Ofglen is slightly more outgoing. The Wall is... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
...paper, in an entirely automated process. In the window glass, Ofglen makes eye contact with Offred. Ofglen wonders in a whisper to Offred if God cares about the prayers, a dangerous... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen continue to talk. Ofglen seems knowledgeable about where and how it’s safe to... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen fearfully watch the approach of a black van with the winged eye symbol... (full context)
Chapter 28
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred sits at the window of her room, still excited about her encounter with Ofglen. She’s... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred delves into a specific memory of talking to Moira in Offred’s kitchen. Offred worked at... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Later, Offred moved to a better apartment for two years until Luke got his divorce. She worked... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred thinks that the lack of paper money made it easier for the Gilead authorities to... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...on Wheels vans.” Generally people accepted these measures, feeling safe. But one September day, when Offred and Luke had been married for years and their daughter was three or four, Offred... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Later that day, Offred’s boss at the library, seeming unbalanced and distracted, fired her and all the other female... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred returned home, restless and nervous. She managed to reach Moira, who had been working for... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred picked up her daughter, and Luke came home. He tried to comfort Offred by saying... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...There were also some bombings, but maybe the army set them off too. Luke encouraged Offred not to go protest, and she didn’t, and became a stay-at-home housewife. Offred and others... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred goes into a further-back memory, from when she was a teenager. She remembered her mother... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Back in the present time, Offred watches Nick go out into the garden, and admires his body. She sees his hat... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers back to the day she lost her job, when Luke wanted to have sex... (full context)
Chapter 29
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred plays Scrabble in the Commander’s office, at ease in her chair, perfecting the scene by... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The Commander says it’s only joke Latin, from his schoolboy days. He shows Offred an old textbook with different Latin jokes, and explains that the phrase means “Don’t let... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred simply asks what became of “her,” and the Commander knows what she’s asking. He says... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred realizes that the Commander has been spending time with her to raise her spirits, so... (full context)
Chapter 31
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
It’s a very hot July, and Offred feels listless and stiff, like an old woman. She wishes she could have a petty... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen go shopping. There are two dead bodies on the Wall, killed for belonging... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Ofglen says the Eyes now eat at the hall. She tells Offred about the Resistance movement’s password, “Mayday,” which Ofglen had once tried saying to Offred. The... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Serena Joy sits knitting in the garden, and calls to Offred as she walks by. Serena Joy asks Offred to hold her wool, explaining that Offred... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Serena Joy tells Offred that she’s running out of time for a baby, and then daringly suggests that perhaps... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred asks about the Commander, and Serena Joy says it’ll be a secret. Offred says it’s... (full context)
Chapter 32
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred gives Rita the groceries and asks for a match. Rita is annoyed, but won’t disobey... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred flashes back to the previous night. The Commander drinks in front of her and then... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
The Commander asks for Offred’s opinion on what the Gilead has done. Offred says she has no opinion, but lets... (full context)
Chapter 33
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and Ofglen walk to the Women’s Prayvaganza, and Offred is aware of how pleasantly identical... (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...a new Wife, because the baby girl turned out to be “a shredder.” Ofglen tells Offred that Janine had sex with a doctor for the baby, and now she thinks that... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred goes into a flashback from the Rachel and Leah Center. Janine sat on the bed... (full context)
Chapter 34
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back in the present day, the Commander in charge of the Prayvaganza enters, and Offred imagines him having sex with his Handmaid. The Commander gives a speech, and then twenty... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred flashes back to an evening with the Commander, when he explained that Gilead actually made... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Back at the Prayvaganza, Offred thinks about the women usually celebrate weddings, and the men celebrate military victories. But some... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
...Angels lift off their new brides’ veils, to see their faces for the first time. Offred imagines advice to the young brides in dealing with the boring sex to come. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred goes into a Rachel and Leah Center flashback. She remembers Aunt Lydia explaining that the... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
After the Prayvaganza, Ofglen whispers to Offred that she knows about Offred’s secret meetings with the Commander. Ofglen is curious if they’re... (full context)
Chapter 35
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back in her room, Offred goes back into the flashback of her family’s failed attempt to cross the Canadian border.... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred breaks off there, and addresses her audience directly, saying that she doesn’t want to tell... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred thinks about her conversation with the Commander about love, then muses more generally about falling... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Finally someone knocks at Offred’s door, but it’s Serena Joy with a photo, not Cora with dinner. Offred examines the... (full context)
Chapter 36
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
At night, Offred goes to see the Commander, who seems already drunk. He says he has a surprise... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Nick drives Offred and the Commander. Offred can’t tell what Nick thinks of all this, and imagines the... (full context)
Chapter 37
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred and the Commander enter the courtyard of what used to be a hotel. There are... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Commander and Offred sit down, and he asks her opinion on “our little club.” Offred says she thought... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Commander tells Offred that the men are high-ranking officials and foreign businessmen, and the women are some former... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
As Offred waits for her drink, she sees Moira across the room, wearing a slutty and disheveled... (full context)
Chapter 38
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
An Aunt with a cattle prod tells Offred she has fifteen minutes. Offred enters a ladies’ lounge, with has a mirror, unlike at... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Moira tells Offred her story over two bathroom trips, and Offred tries to tell it to her audience... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...four years before her “snatch wears out,” and she can have alcohol and drugs. Here Offred interjects, shocked at Moira’s listlessness. She’s lost her essential spark and bravery, and Offred feels... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred wishes she could tell her audience a story about Moira managing to escape or blowing... (full context)
Chapter 39
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The Commander brings Offred up to a hotel room at Jezebel’s. Offred uses the bathroom and flashes back to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred spoke to the superintendent of her mother’s apartment, and then Luke drove her over to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers how, during college, Moira said she thought Offred’s mother was “neat” and even “cute.”... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Back at the hotel, Offred looks in the mirror at her messy, garish outfit. Tomorrow’s the Ceremony, so she must... (full context)
Chapter 40
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred lies in her hot bedroom, dressed again in her red robe. The searchlights are off,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Nick’s room is unadorned and military-seeming. He smokes a cigarette and Offred wants to get naked to enjoy the smoke. He turns out the light and takes... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred backs up, saying “I made that up.” She gives us the real version of events.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred says it wasn’t like that either, that she can only hope to make a reconstruction... (full context)
Chapter 41
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred wishes her story made her seem better, “more active, less hesitant,” and wishes it had... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred describes how she started to spend a lot of time with Nick, without Serena Joy’s... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
On shopping trips, Ofglen encourages Offred to find out whatever she can and look through the Commander’s papers. But Offred barely... (full context)
Chapter 42
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...main library, where graduations used to take place. Now there’s a stage with three nooses. Offred only attended a Women’s Salvaging once before, two years ago. Two Handmaids and one Wife... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Aunt Lydia comes onto the stage and Offred hates her. She gives a speech about duty, and then announces that she will not... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
The Salvagers prepare to hang Ofcharles, and someone behind Offred, maybe Janine, according to Ofglen, seems to vomit. As the women is hanged, the Handmaids... (full context)
Chapter 43
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Offred notices how the three hanged women look like dancers in the air. Aunt Lydia tells... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
...She says he raped two Handmaids, one of whom was pregnant and whose baby died. Offred feels overwhelmed with anger. Aunt Lydia blows the whistle, but the Handmaids wait, watching his... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred yells at Ofglen for her actions, and Ofglen whispers to Offred that the man wasn’t... (full context)
Chapter 44
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred goes shopping. The Ofglen who accompanies her isn’t the same one as before. Offred asks... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
The new Ofglen does not respond well and warns Offred off of saying such things. Offred becomes frightened and paranoid. But right when they part... (full context)
Chapter 45
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred is relieved that the old Ofglen killed herself before torture, which means that Offred’s secrets... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Serena Joy comes angrily out of the house, and Offred knows she’s in trouble for something, though she doesn’t know what. Serena Joy shows her... (full context)
Chapter 46
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred waits in her room, uncertain what her punishment will be. She imagines how she could... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred stands, maybe planning to do something, and sees that a black van with the winged... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The two Eyes help Offred get into the van. She knows she can’t do anything else, and so she enters... (full context)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...ways that they tried to find more evidence relating to the story. He describes how Offred became a Handmaid because she’d had a relationship with a married man. He talks about... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...Waterford seems to be more likely to be the Commander. The authorities killed him after Offred’s departure, for owning banned magazines and books and for hosting a rebel, probably Nick. Nick... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Professor Pieixoto wonders what happened to Offred. Maybe she made it to Canada and then England, which was safest. Maybe she was... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Professor Pieixoto closes with some poetic musings on the past, calling Offred’s narrative “in its own way eloquent,” and talking about the difficulties of understanding messages from... (full context)
Chapter 30
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred sits by the window at night. She sees Nick in the garden, and he sees... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers the night before her escape attempt with Luke and their daughter. They couldn’t pack... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Offred remembers saying bedtime prayers at the Rachel and Leah Center, when Aunt Lydia would adjust... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
In the current time, Offred prays out the window. She acknowledges that God probably didn’t want all this, and hopes... (full context)