The Handmaid’s Tale


Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

At night, Offred goes to see the Commander, who seems already drunk. He says he has a surprise for Offred, then gives her a worn-looking skimpy sequined leotard. Offred remembers seeing TV coverage of the bonfires to destroy such clothing. He tells Offred to put it on as a disguise, so they can go out, and she’s excited to do something so rebellious. He gives her some old makeup to apply, and then a blue hooded cloak of Serena Joy’s.
Offred is excited to change from her modest robes (that nonetheless reveal her role as a sex worker) to an overtly feminine, sexy outfit. Yet she’s more excited about the bold opportunity to rebel than about her opportunity to reclaim her femininity.
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Nick drives Offred and the Commander. Offred can’t tell what Nick thinks of all this, and imagines the possibilities. The Commander has a pass to get Offred through the checkpoints. Then he makes Offred hide on the car floor to a place where Wives are prohibited. They hurry through a back entrance, and Offred understands that the Commander has been here before. The Commander tells Offred to pretend she’s an “evening rental,” and Offred wishes she could see how she looked.
Still, as soon as Offred puts on makeup, she becomes more self-conscious, aware of a new ideal. This demonstrates how easily she slips into old habits. Her personality changes as quickly as her clothes. This supports, or at least makes non-ridiculous, the Commander’s claim that women are actually freer when they have fewer chances to modify their appearances.
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