Every major character in the story engages in some kind of disobedience against Gilead’s laws. Moira rebels most boldly, disguising herself and managing to escape from the Handmaids’ imprisonment, though her daring escape proves futile, and she ends up at Jezebel’s, resigned to her fate. Ofglen’s rebellion is more community-minded, since she works as part of an organized resistance, although her careful plotting also ends badly. More unexpected are the small-scale rebellions from the Commander and the Commander’s Wife.
The Commander seems to have every advantage, being a man, powerful in the new regime, and wealthy. Gilead should be his ideal society, especially since the book suggests that he had a role in designing it. Yet he desires a deeper emotional connection, and cares enough about Offred’s well-being to break the law and consort with her beyond his duties. The Commander’s Wife also tries to get around the strictures of Gilead, setting Offred up with Nick in an illegal attempt to make a family.
These rebellious acts, coming from Gilead’s privileged group, add complexity to their characters and to the dystopia as a whole. No one in the book is purely evil, and no one is so different from real-world humans to fully embrace the lack of independence in Gilead. Whether large or small, attempting to destroy the Gileadean government or merely to make one’s personal circumstances more tolerable, each character commits rebellious acts, highlighting both the unlivable horror of Gileadean society, and the unsteadiness of its foundations.
Rebellion Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale
We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?
Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?
Nolite te bastardes carborandorum.
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.
A thing is valued, she says, only if it is rare and hard to get.
And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.