The Handmaid’s Tale


Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Offred wishes her story made her seem better, “more active, less hesitant,” and wishes it had more about love and pleasant things. She apologizes for her painful and disjointed story. She hopes others will hear her story, and she will hear others’, and she imagines an audience into existence.
As she did in Chapter 23, Offred removes herself from her story to comment on her storytelling. She emphasizes that the story is for others, an act of communication, not just a way for her to pass time.
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Offred describes how she started to spend a lot of time with Nick, without Serena Joy’s endorsement. She did it for selfish reasons, 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. She wishes she could see him in better light than just the searchlight, and every time they have sex they do it like it’s the last time. Offred trusts Nick and tells him everything (except about Luke), though she knows it might be dangerous. Offred doesn’t want to know if he got with the previous Handmaid. She feels like she’s made Nick into “an idol.” He doesn’t talk much and seems nonchalant.
When Offred falls in love, nothing else is important. The selfishness that has always been a part of her comes out full force, as does her desire to subject herself to a man’s whims, always asking for permission. She even makes Nick a kind of “reconstruction” by idolizing him. At the same time, Offred finally gets to communicate and have freedom. Though she thinks of herself as passive, she’s the one knocking on his door.
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On shopping trips, Ofglen encourages Offred to find out whatever she can and look through the Commander’s papers. But Offred barely pays attention to Ofglen, distracted by thoughts of Nick. Offred tells Ofglen that she’s afraid of getting caught, but really she doesn’t want to escape anymore. She thinks she might be pregnant, and remembers that Cora seems to think so too, suggesting that Cora might know about the situation. Offred is relieved when Ofglen stops pushing her to help with the Resistance.
Though Offred has never been happier in Gilead, this happiness leads to her most morally reprehensible behavior. Instead of helping Ofglen, and by extension helping more people experience freedom and love, she prioritizes herself. As always in the novel, nothing is purely good or bad.
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