Offred sits by the window at night. She sees Nick in the garden, and he sees her in the window, a romantic moment they can’t consummate. Offred knows that Nick and Luke can’t be substituted for one another, and remembers Moira’s claim that people can’t control their feelings but can control their behavior.
Nick presents a new set of emotions for Offred. Instead of being a mistress, now she’s the one cheating, on Luke’s memory. Now that she’s in the active position, she’s more concerned about morality.
Offred remembers the night before her escape attempt with Luke and their daughter. They couldn’t pack much, which would be suspicious. Luke realized that they couldn’t take their cat or give her away, so he took her to the garage and killed her. In retrospect, Offred knows the cat died for nothing. She wonders who informed the authorities about their leaving, possibly a neighbor or the passport forger. Offred can’t clearly remember her family’s faces.
Luke’s willingness to commit violence, even to help his family, subtly suggests that he might fit in well as part of Gilead. Though at other times Offred is happy to offer “reconstructions,” such as in Chapter 23, she doesn’t want to make up her family’s faces. In her most emotional moments, she prefers accuracy to invention.
Offred remembers saying bedtime prayers at the Rachel and Leah Center, when Aunt Lydia would adjust the Handmaids with a wooden stick so that they looked perfect. The Handmaids prayed to be empty, so that they could be filled with fertility, and Janine would sometimes get annoyingly excited.
Aunt Lydia’s attentiveness to the superficial, visual quality of prayer echoes the Soul Scrolls of Chapter 27. Gilead uses the structure and rituals of religion, with none of the actual content. Religion becomes a means to power in general and over women, rather than an end in itself.
In the current time, Offred prays out the window. She acknowledges that God probably didn’t want all this, and hopes He prevents her family from suffering too much. Offred thinks about how she could still hang herself on one of the closet hooks. She imagines that God might be frustrated with the current situation. She wishes God would respond, and she feels very alone.
In contrast to the previous passage, Offred offers a legitimate, heartfelt prayer, acknowledging the emptiness of the theocracy. In contrast to her selfish tendencies, she prays for her loved ones, not for pregnancy or some other personal cause.