The Handmaid’s Tale

by

Margaret Atwood

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Handmaid’s Tale can help.
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
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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
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I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 8
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Chapter 4 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 22
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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
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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
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Chapter 9 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 51
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Nolite te bastardes carborandorum.

Related Characters: The Previous Handmaid (speaker)
Page Number: 52
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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
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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
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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
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Chapter 13 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 69
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Chapter 24 Quotes

You can think clearly only with your clothes on.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker)
Page Number: 143
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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