The Handmaid’s Tale


Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Offred and the Commander enter the courtyard of what used to be a hotel. There are women in a variety of sexy outfits, including pre-Gilead jogging gear, and they all wear makeup. The Commander thinks it looks like the past, but Offred finds that it feels very different. The Commander talks with other men, both showing Offred off to them, and demonstrating his power to her.
The Commander’s assertion that the club looks like the past shows his misunderstanding of the pre-Gilead days. For him, the main difference between the two societies is the women’s clothes (rather than the women’s rights and freedom), illustrating his foolish and dangerous innocence.
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The Commander and Offred sit down, and he asks her opinion on “our little club.” Offred says she thought this was illegal, but the Commander explains it’s necessary because men naturally need different women. The Commander thinks that women used to wear different outfits to give their men that necessary diversity.
The Commander’s pseudo-scientific justification of male desire echoes his earlier statements about how porn made men unfeeling. In his view, men are powerless to control their sexuality and therefore must control women in order to control themselves.
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The Commander tells Offred that the men are high-ranking officials and foreign businessmen, and the women are some former prostitutes and some well-educated women who chose this life. He flirtily asks Offred if she’d prefer this, and she flirts back. He encourages Offred to have a drink, and kisses her hand.
Given the Commander’s views that men have no self-control over their sexuality, which reflects a fear of female power, he must enjoy seeing these high-achieving women debasing themselves for him.
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As Offred waits for her drink, she sees Moira across the room, wearing a slutty and disheveled animal costume. She looks bored, scanning the room, and then sees 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.
Moira and Offred use their old gestures from the Rachel and Leah Center to communicate again. Moira’s presence here seems like a crazy coincidence, but maybe Gilead is smaller than it pretends to be.
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