The Handmaid’s Tale

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Commander Character Analysis

The head of the household where Offred serves as a Handmaid, and husband of Serena Joy. The Commander has gray hair, wears a black suit, and looks “like a Midwestern bank president.” Though he is a high-ranking official of Gilead who may have played a large role in its construction, he breaks many laws, including going to the sex club Jezebel’s (and at least once hiring Moira), and spending time with Offred. Though he attributes many of his misogynistic attitudes to “Nature,” he cares for Offred’s well being, and often wants to know her opinion on controversial matters.

The Commander Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale

The The Handmaid’s Tale quotes below are all either spoken by The Commander or refer to The Commander. 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.
Get the entire The Handmaid’s Tale LitChart as a printable PDF.
The handmaid s tale.pdf.medium

The Commander Character Timeline in The Handmaid’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the character The Commander appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Rebellion Theme Icon
...food, with images of food on them. Rita tells Offred to tell the shops her Commander’s name to get fresh goods. Offred doesn’t smile at Rita, as she doesn’t see the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...part in hair, and the worms remind Offred of fertility. The Guardian assigned to the Commander, Nick, polishes the Commander’s fancy Whirlwind car. Nick demonstrates a touch of irreverence by rolling... (full context)
Chapter 8
Rebellion Theme Icon
At Offred’s house, Nick polishes the Commander’s Whirlwind. The red tulips look like empty chalices, and Offred doesn’t understand what they are... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
...light through the stained glass. The convex mirror looks like an eye to her. The Commander is standing outside her room, which he’s never done before. He walks away when she... (full context)
Chapter 10
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...it’s illegal for her to read). Veiling her face with the curtain, she sees the Commander go out to his car, with Nick standing by. She imagines throwing something out the... (full context)
Chapter 11
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...she could also get killed for not being able to have a baby with the Commander. Though Offred turns the doctor down, she tries to act open, knowing that he has... (full context)
Chapter 14
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
The Commander is late, so Serena Joy turns on the TV news, which shows the Angels attacking... (full context)
Chapter 15
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
The gray-haired, neat Commander arrives, wearing a black suit. He unlocks the Bible from its box and sits down... (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... (full context)
Chapter 16
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...pregnant with air. Offred lies between Serena Joy’s (clothed) legs, and they hold hands. The Commander has sex with Offred’s lower body, in an impersonal, disjointed style, which Offred doesn’t call... (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,... (full context)
Chapter 17
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...but she’s afraid. Nick says he was coming to tell Offred to go see the Commander tomorrow. (full context)
Chapter 23
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...forgiven for them. At the end of all these thoughts, Offred tells us that the Commander asked her to kiss him. (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At nine pm, Offred goes to meet the Commander in his office, as Nick previously instructed her. Offred is powerfully aware of the illegality... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
The Commander’s study is filled with books. The Commander has posed himself impressively in front of the... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
...innocent game is now illegal, as risky as a drug. And she knows that the Commander can’t play with Serena Joy. They play two games—she wins the first, then lets him... (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... (full context)
Chapter 24
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...five foot seven, and brown-haired. Offred realizes she now has the power to ask the Commander for some things. She remembers Aunt Lydia suggesting, but never saying outright, that “men are... (full context)
Chapter 25
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred and the Commander continue to meet in secret, when Nick signals, either by polishing the car when Offred... (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 their second meeting,... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
At first, Offred turned down the Vogue, but the Commander said that she was allowed to read it. Offred notes the almost masculine confidence of... (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 Commander said that certain... (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 felt angry. He gave... (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 too both managed to drift absent-mindedly through it, but now Offred felt, for the first... (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 Joy even knows about it and lets it happen to... (full context)
Chapter 28
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...how to make it into a weapon. Moira would probably dislike Offred’s deal with the Commander, since she thought Offred was wrong to take Luke from another woman. On the other... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...admires his body. She sees his hat is askew, which means Offred will see the Commander tonight. Offred wonders what Nick thinks of her trysts with the Commander, and if he... (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 imagining a fire in the... (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... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Offred simply asks what became of “her,” and the Commander knows what she’s asking. He says that the previous Handmaid hanged herself, which is why... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred realizes that the Commander has been spending time with her to raise her spirits, so she won’t do the... (full context)
Chapter 31
Rebellion Theme Icon
...and Nick’s crooked hat signals to Offred that she’ll have a nighttime meeting with the Commander. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...she’s running out of time for a baby, and then daringly suggests that perhaps the Commander “can’t.” The women make eye contact, and Serena Joy suggests that Offred try with another... (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 risky, but agrees quickly.... (full context)
Chapter 32
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 makes up words in Scrabble, or sits below... (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... (full context)
Chapter 34
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Offred flashes back to an evening with the Commander, when he explained that Gilead actually made things better for women. They no longer had... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...the Prayvaganza, Ofglen whispers to Offred that she knows about Offred’s secret meetings with the Commander. Ofglen is curious if they’re having illicit sex, and Offred doesn’t confess what’s really happening,... (full context)
Chapter 35
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred thinks about her conversation with the Commander about love, then muses more generally about falling in love. She thinks that it’s hard... (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 for Offred, then gives her... (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 possibilities. The Commander... (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 women in a... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Commander and Offred sit down, and he asks her opinion on “our little club.” Offred says... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Commander tells Offred that the men are high-ranking officials and foreign businessmen, and the women are... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...Offred and gestures that they should meet at the bathroom in five minutes. When the Commander returns, Offred heads for the bathroom, unsteady in her heels. (full context)
Chapter 38
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...the bathroom and hugs Offred, with her familiar no-nonsense attitude. Moira has slept with Offred’s Commander before, and says Commanders bring Handmaids as a “power trip,” though Offred believes he has... (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... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...midnight to have her first sex with Nick. She exits the bathroom and joins the Commander on the bed. He touches Offred, but she just asks why he brought her. He... (full context)
Chapter 41
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...always thankful to him for receiving her. She sometimes went over just after seeing the Commander. She sketches out a typical Nick encounter. They have sex right away and talk afterward.... (full context)
Chapter 46
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Serena Joy and the Commander look surprised. They didn’t call the Eyes. Serena Joy asks what Offred did, and they... (full context)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Professor Pieixoto describes trying to find the Commander. The researchers found a journal that describes two Fredericks. One, Frederick Waterford, used to do... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
The other Commander possibility, Frederick Judd, helped with the massacre of the President and Congress and shipping away... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...worked on television like Serena Joy. 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... (full context)