The Handmaid’s Tale

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin Company edition of The Handmaid’s Tale published in 1986.
Chapter 1 Quotes

We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Color Red
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel opens with Offred recalling the time she spent inside a building that was formerly used as a school, which the reader later learns is the Rachel and Leah Re-Education Center, or the "Red… (175 more words in this explanation)

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Eye
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Having recalled the time she spent sleeping in the gymnasium of the Red Center, Offred has moved on to describe a second room, which we later learn is her bedroom in the Commander's house. She… (183 more words in this explanation)

I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has continued describing her room in the Commander's house, and recalled Aunt Lydia telling her to "think of it as like being in the army." She describes the single bed in the room, saying… (88 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 4 Quotes

I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has described a routine shopping outing with Ofglen, the only time the women are allowed out of the house. Nick has winked at her, which makes her worry that he is an Eye. Offred… (186 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 5 Quotes

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Aunt Lydia (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has continued to describe her walk through town, reflecting on the differences between the world she currently lives in and the society in which she grew up. She has recalled that there were "rules"… (162 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 7 Quotes

I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is lying in bed, and has recalled hazy memories from different moments in her life, featuring Moira, her mother, and her daughter. She has recalled waking up from a drug-induced sleep to find that… (177 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 9 Quotes

We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has described the time when she first arrived at the Commander's house and spent hours looking around her new bedroom. This memory has then made her think of hotel rooms, and the time she… (102 more words in this explanation)

Nolite te bastardes carborandorum.

Related Characters: The Previous Handmaid (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has returned to the memory of looking around the bedroom when she first arrived at the Commander's house. She recalls looking inside a cupboard, and describes seeing hooks and wondering why no one has… (190 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 10 Quotes

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is once again lost in her memories, recalling Aunt Lydia describing, horrified, the way women used to dress with, while meanwhile Moira was planning an "underwhore" party in which she would sell lingerie to… (100 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 11 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has gone to the doctor for her monthly checkup, and the doctor has offered to have sex with her in order to help her get pregnant, an illegal offence for which they could both… (198 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 12. Quotes

I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is having a bath, which she has at regular times that are not chosen by her. The bath has been run by Cora, who sits outside, and items such as a mirror, razor, and… (144 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 13 Quotes

But maybe boredom is erotic, when women do it, for men.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred reflects on the fact that she has so little to do, and wishes she could pursue a hobby, such as weaving or knitting. She recalls paintings of harems that depict women looking bored, and… (90 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 18 Quotes

But this is wrong, nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

While sneaking downstairs to steal a daffodil, Offred has run into Nick, and the two share an erotically-charged moment. Back in her room, Offred remembers lying in bed with Luke while she was pregnant, and… (171 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 19 Quotes

A thing is valued, she says, only if it is rare and hard to get.

Related Characters: Aunt Lydia (speaker)
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has been taken to Janine's house, where Janine is giving birth. As they wait to find out if the baby is healthy, Offred experiences a flashback to the Red Center, where Aunt Lydia taught… (173 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 21 Quotes

You wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one. It isn’t what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Offred’s Mother
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred is at Janine's house while Janine is giving birth, and has been recalling her time in the Red Center, when the women were shown videos of "unwomen." One of these videos showed Offred's mother… (223 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 23 Quotes

But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control…maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has returned to the Commander's house after the birth of Janine's baby, where she thinks about the nature of storytelling and memory. She reflects on the "temptation" to forgive, and muses that perhaps the… (96 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 24 Quotes

You can think clearly only with your clothes on.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has secretly spent an evening with the Commander, playing an illicit game of Scrabble and then sharing a kiss. Back in her room, she sits on her bed with her clothes on, waiting before… (93 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 26 Quotes

“Why expect one woman to carry out all the functions necessary to the serene running of a household? It isn’t reasonable or humane. Your daughters will have greater freedom.”

Related Characters: Aunt Lydia (speaker)
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred and the Commander have continued to meet in secret and their relationship grows friendlier; this then makes it awkward for both of them to participate in the Ceremony. Offred recalls Aunt Lydia telling her… (231 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 28 Quotes

He doesn’t mind this, I thought. He doesn’t mind it at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other’s, anymore. Instead, I am his.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Luke
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has finally explained how the United States turned into the Republic of Gilead, recalling the time when, like all other women, she was fired from her job and had her bank account drained. She… (197 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 33 Quotes

But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Ofred and Ofglen have gone to a Prayvaganza, and Oflgen observes that Janine has been moved to another family because the baby she had turned out to be a "shredder." Ofglen reveals that Janine thinks… (105 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 40 Quotes

All I can hope for is a reconstruction: the way love feels is always only approximate.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Compelled by Serena Joy, Offred has gone to Nick's apartment in order to have sex with him in the hope of getting pregnant. Offred tells several versions of her encounter with Nick; the first portrays… (91 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 41 Quotes

Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.

Related Characters: Offred’s Mother (speaker)
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has started seeing Nick more regularly, enjoying her time with him and even idolizing him. When Ofglen offers to help her escape, Offred admits to herself that she no longer really wants to leave… (151 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 46 Quotes

And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Eye
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

The Eye van has arrived at the Commander's house to take Offred away, and Offred is terrified, wishing that she had killed herself while she had the chance. However, Nick has told her that the… (194 more words in this explanation)

Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale Quotes

We must be cautious about passing moral judgment upon the Gileadean. Surely we have learned by now that such judgments are of necessity culture-specific…our job is not to censure but to understand.”

Related Characters: Professor Pieixoto (speaker)
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

The "Historical Notes on the Handmaid's Tale," the final section of the novel, is an invented transcript of a speech at an academic conference on "Gileadean Studies" in the year 2195. Professor Pieixoto, an expert… (334 more words in this explanation)

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