Summary of the Novel
A revolution has replaced the government of the United States with the Bible-based Republic of Gilead, a theocracy. The novel is narrated by a woman of 30 or so who has been separated from her husband and young daughter, then sent to a brainwashing center. She is trained to be a Handmaid, obliged to serve any member of the hierarchy as birth-mother of his children.
She is now on her third assignment, having failed to become pregnant in her previous two, so her time is running out. If she does not have a child soon, she will become an Unwoman, exiled to clean up toxic waste in one of the Colonies until she dies in two or three years. Unwomen, like Jews, African Americans, Catholics, and other groups considered undesirable by the Gilead regime are not allowed in Gilead.
As Offred, the narrator is a “walking womb” whose only duty is to help maintain the declining white population. She spends most of her time alone in her bare room remembering her previous life, and desperately seeking some means of escape from her new one, including suicide.
Although everyone in Gilead is a potential informer, Offred does establish a bond with another Handmaid, Ofglen, and with her master’s chauffeur, Nick, with whom she has a secret affair. He arranges her escape via the Underground Femaleroad, which
supposedly can help her get to freedom in Canada. In the last chapter two men come for her and take her from her master’s house.
However, neither Offred nor the reader is sure if she is actually being rescued. Instead, she may be under arrest as an enemy of the state, and doomed to death.
This mystery is not cleared up in the “Historical Notes” that end the novel. These are concerned with a group of scholars in 2195 whose main interest is the study of Gilead as a historical phenomenon, not in the person Offred.
Estimated Reading Time
The Handmaid’s Tale is divided into 46 short chapters plus a postscript. It is also divided into 15 numbered and named sections (e.g., “Shopping” and “Waiting Room”). Except for the postscript chapter, the novel is told in everyday speech, although the narrator does use a number of new terms invented by the new regime (e.g., “Unwoman” and “Prayvaganza”). The narrator also frequently uses irony and sarcasm, so sometimes she clearly means the opposite of what she says.
Parts I, II - 1 hour
Parts III, IV - 1 hour
Parts V, VI, VII - 1 1/2 hours
Parts VIII, IX - 1 1/2 hours
Parts X, XI - 1 1/2 hours
Part XII - 2 hours
Parts XIII, XIV, XV, - 2 1/2 hours
The total reading time is approximately 11 hours.
The Life and Work of Margaret Atwood
The 1960s opened the most dynamic period in Canadian writing, much as the 1920s did for American literature. One factor behind this upsurge was a sense that during World War II, 1939–1941, Canada had come of age and played a major role in defeating the Axis powers. Also, the Canada Council of the Arts, started at the end of the 1950s, provided grants that allowed young writers (many of whom grew up during the war) the time to research and write their books. Meanwhile, the explosion of post-war immigration, primarily from Europe, gave Canadian authors a much increased body of sophisticated readers.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in 1939, Margaret Atwood was part of this new wave of writers. She published her first book, The Circle Game, a collection of her poetry, in 1966, which won that year’s Governor General’s Award for poetry (these awards, affectionately called the GeeGees, are like the American Pulitzer Prize). The next year, Atwood was named writer-in-residence at Montréal’s Sir George Williams University, the first of a series of such posts that allowed her to work almost full-time at her craft.
Because her father was an entomologist studying the insect life of Canada’s forests, Atwood spent her childhood in a variety of places in northern Ontario and Québec before studying for her B.A. at the University of Toronto and her M.A. at Harvard’s Radcliffe College. For the next few years, with her series of writer-in-residence posts, Atwood continued to live a semi-nomadic life. She seems to have thrived on it as a writer, publishing roughly a book a year since that time, although she and her partner, novelist Graeme Gibson, and their daughter Jess have lived north of Toronto since the 1980s.
Atwood published her first novel, The Edible Woman, in 1969, and has become far more widely read as a novelist than as a poet. She continued to publish poetry, however, as well as two studies of Canadian writing, a book of history, and a number of children’s books. In addition, she was one of the founders of the Writers Union of Canada, a lobby group, and served a term as its president.
Her childhood experience of northern Canada’s long, harsh winters and enormous spaces, and her own rootlessness during those years, are themes that appear in virtually all of her novels and in much of her other writing . These themes are evident in her literary study, Survival (1972) and her poetry book The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970). (Moodie, whose 1852 book Roughing It in the Bush is a Canadian classic of pioneer life in what was then a British colony, dwelt on the isolation and loneliness of settler life.) Atwood’s female protagonists, who frequently narrate their novels, live lonely and sometimes fearful lives in hostile environments, struggling to discover their identities and to assert themselves, with mixed results. They usually have to make some compromise with the world around them, rather than winning a clear victory, but they survive.
Most of Atwood’s novels are set in the contemporary world. However, in Alias Grace (1996) her title character is a very young woman accused of aiding in the murder of her employer in mid-Nineteenth-Century Ontario. Alias Grace is based on an actual murder in 1843 and the subsequent trial. In The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) Atwood projects a futuristic world of reaction and repression—and of virtual enslavement for women.
Nineteen hundred sixty-three was a revolutionary year for women around the world. The birth control pill became generally available, making it possible for women to lead active sex lives without a strong chance of pregnancy. That year, too, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, telling women, especially American women, that their lives were far more narrow and stifling than they should be. So the era of modern feminism began.
Of course, there had been many strongly independent women long before then. [They fought for decades for suffrage, a right most women in the U.S. and Canada weren’t granted until the end of World War I (in Utah and Manitoba they won it much earlier)].
Friedan and the birth control pill revitalized the movement enormously, activating it in schools and universities, legislatures, businesses, and churches, with major success.
However, no revolutionary movement succeeds unopposed. The new feminism attracted many enemies, creating a reaction that was vocalized by women as well as men. Sometimes this reaction was couched in religious terms, in the idea that God had ordained men to be masters in the home and in religion—in fact, in every aspect of life. Some saw feminism as a threat to conventional morality and traditional family structure, and they were frightened and angry. Some men saw it as a threat to their own jobs.
Parallel in time to the rise of this new feminism was the development of television evangelism, usually of a very simplistic and conservative kind, with millions of believers sending in many millions of dollars to support “the good work.” Probably the most popular of these was The PTL Club (Praise the Lord) hosted by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, until their involvement in financial and sexual scandals resulted in Jim’s disgrace, trial, and imprisonment.
This American phenomenon of televised fundamentalist evangelism was matched by fundamentalist movements (some of which became increasingly militant and often violent) in several of the world’s major religions including Hinduism, Islam, and various Christian denominations.
The most vivid example is the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, which brought to power the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his crusade against Western “pollution” that included freeing women from their traditional role as wife, mother, and housekeeper. Many saw the new Islamic Republic of Iran as a reversion to the Middle Ages in its quest for a rigid, scripture-based society. Others saw it as a way of curbing the moral decay of a society that indulged itself with alcohol, drugs, and sexual promiscuity.
In the United States, religious fundamentalism became increasingly politicized, first in the “Moral Majority” and then in the “Christian Coalition,” whose representatives strove to take control of local school boards, in particular. They also ran for public office, from small-town mayor to the U.S. Congress and Senate, with Reverend Pat Robertson vying for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1988. Millions saw this as the only way America could regain its sense of direction and its soul.
However, millions of others saw it as an assault on the U.S. Constitution itself, especially the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state and the tenet that there must be no established (i.e., dominant, state-supported) religion in the United States. This war of ideas continues today.
All these things went into Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, her “what if” book. What if the religious right went beyond elections and staged a revolution, a coup d’état, and established an American government that replaced the Constitution with the Bible as its source of morality and law? What if it were as rigid and intolerant as Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime in Iran? How could it take place? What would life be like under it, especially for women?
The Twentieth Century has had more than its share of brutal repression: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, etc. These dictatorships have used similar methods to control their people and destroy opposition. Atwood imagines her Republic of Gilead using many of these same methods, and even adding a few new ones of its own.
Atwood also looks at the increasing degradation of the world’s environment: the pollution of its water, land, and air, which is having increasingly disastrous effects on human and animal life. Deserts are growing at a fearsome rate; rain forests are being demolished; greenhouse gases are causing global warming that results in melting glaciers, rising sea levels, climate changes, and the endangerment of species. Illegal or poorly managed toxic waste dumps are polluting groundwater, poisoning farm families’ wells, and ruining land. Nuclear waste, with a killing life of hundreds or even thousands of years, is being produced each and every day, creating an increasingly threatening disposal problem. While Atwood’s previous novels dealt with women searching for their identity, this book’s protagonist has been stripped of hers. Her bank account has been frozen by the new state, and she loses her job since the new state forbids women to have a career. Her husband and her young daughter have been taken from her. She is even dispossessed of her own name; instead, she had become merely Offred (of Fred, Fred’s possession), named for the man to whom the government has temporarily assigned her, and she will be renamed for the next man to whom she is assigned. This is Gilead’s reaction to feminism and to the problems that plagued U.S. society in the years prior to the revolution.
Master List of Characters
Offred—narrator, former library-worker, separated by the authorities from her husband, Luke, and their five-year-old daughter; now Handmaid to the Commander.
Luke—Offred’s husband, perhaps executed; Offred often thinks of him, remembering their past happiness as an escape.
Their daughter—unnamed; taken away from her parents and adopted by an establishment family.
Offred’s mother—ardent feminist and single mother, rumored to have been exiled to Gilead’s Colonies to die.
Moira—Offred’s friend since college, a lesbian and ardent feminist, who escapes the Re-education Center (Red Center), but ends up as a state prostitute at Jezebel’s.
Commander—formerly in marketing research, he helped create the Republic of Gilead and is one of its rulers, but is intrigued by Offred.
Commander’s wife (alias Serena Joy)—once a soloist of a TV evangelism show, then a strident critic of American society; now arthritic and miserable, she is jealous of Offred.
Nick—Guardian and the Commander’s chauffeur, he has a secret affair with Offred.
Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Sara—guards at the Red Center.
Aunt Lydia—in charge of Handmaid-trainee indoctrination at the Red Center.
Ofglen Number One—Offred’s grocery-shopping partner, who is involved in the underground Mayday organization and who tells Offred of its existence.
Ofglen Number Two—replacement for the first Ofglen; she keeps her distance from Offred.
Ofwarren—once named Janine, and a pet of the Aunts, she is the only Handmaid shown becoming a mother.
Ofcharles—a Handmaid who is hanged at a Salvaging ceremony for unknown crimes.
Professor Maryann Crescent Moon—the chair of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies.
Professor James Darcy Pieixoto—the main speaker at the symposium.
Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
In the late years of the twentieth century, Protestant Fundamentalists, with the tacit approval of the military, have assassinated the president and the Congress, suspended the Constitution, and established the Republic of Gilead. Under the new regime, women have no rights: They cannot hold jobs, they are not permitted to have money or property, and they have no public role. Since the birthrate has fallen, men in high positions, if their own wives are barren or are past childbearing, are assigned “Handmaids” from a pool of trained women who have already borne children. The only function of a Handmaid is to conceive and bear her master’s child, based upon Rachel’s command to Jacob in the Bible: “Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.” Fertile women who refuse to become Handmaids are killed, sent to illegal but officially tolerated brothels, or sent to the “Colonies,” to work on toxic-waste disposal. Handmaids are deprived of their names and are known only “of” their masters’ names: Offred, Ofglen, Ofwarren, and so on.
Offred’s story covers a spring and summer during which she fails to conceive a child by the Commander. Her only duties during this period are to shop daily for groceries in state-controlled stores and to present her body at regular intervals for nonerotic sexual intercourse with her master; in these episodes the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, is...
(The entire section is 715 words.)
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Dire explorations of future societies, dystopias, have usually been written by and about men. What future hell awaits women? Margaret Atwood asked, after surveying major news stories of the early 1980’s: industrial pollution, surrogate parenthood, AIDS, conservative backlash, televangelism, and oppressive regimes in Argentina and Iran. The Handmaid’s Tale is her imaginative answer. In this bleak narrative, the government of the United States has been overthrown by the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy based on total conformity and reactionary Christianity. With human fertility reduced, by toxic pollution, to crisis point, the fecund womb is now Gilead’s most valuable resource. Consequently, it has been nationalized. A Puritan polygamy, inspired by the Old Testament and by Mormon pioneers in Utah, has been imposed as the norm.
Offred, who tells her story, is an official womb, a red-clad handmaid. Once she had a family identity, but now even her personal name is unknown. She is simply “of-Fred,” bearing the name of the Commander to whom she is assigned. Her chief duty is regular participation in the “Ceremony,” during which Fred, in the presence of his wife and servants, must attempt to impregnate Offred. If he should succeed, her offspring, like those of handmaids of old, will become the possession of his wife, Serena Joy, once a televangelist known for her tears and songs.
Daily life in the Republic of Gilead is detailed....
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Handmaid’s Tale begins near Boston in the mid-1980’s. A faction of right-wing Christians establishes a dictatorship after killing members of the United States government. The result is Gilead, an ultraconservative country that denies women power. Women are unable to hold jobs, use credit cards, or seek education. Also, massive pollution exists due to nuclear and biological warfare. Radioactive territory, known as the Colonies, becomes the home of Jews and of other minorities, because the new government wants only to propagate members of their own sect. Essentially, Atwood has created a dystopia which stands in direct opposition to an ideal world or utopia. Atwood drew upon research about present-day trends in environmental degradation and diseases to create an authentic setting.
Due to massive pollution and to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, reproduction is difficult for women. Many babies are miscarried or born with defects. Women who cannot reproduce, as well as homosexuals, are considered worthless and are banished to the Colonies. Women are divided up into classes; colored clothing is used to separate the classes. The government establishes a secret police force to arrest fertile women, who become Handmaids. These Handmaids are breeders who must participate in sexual acts in order to create more members of the white race.
The women are given names that represent the men who control their lives; these names...
(The entire section is 778 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Set in the near future, a time just prior to the year 2000, The Handmaid’s Tale is science fiction but also an indictment of the present, since Atwood’s future is the reader’s present. It is an atypical Atwood novel, her only novel not rooted in Canada and the only one to be so blatantly propagandistic. In it, she fulfills the promise of her narrator protagonist in Lady Oracle (1976): “I won’t write any more Costume Gothics. . . . But maybe I’ll try some science fiction.” Atwood prefers the term “speculative fiction” because of the blending of future and present and maintains that all the events in the novel have a “corresponding reality, either in contemporary conditions or historical fact.” Since the novel is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Atwood also indicts the American culture, which contains the “corresponding reality.”
The novel begins with a quotation from the book of Genesis about a barren Rachel encouraging her husband Jacob to have children by her maid, Bilhah. In the aftermath of nuclear war, a new North American republic called Gilead (another biblical reference to fertility) attempts to correct a declining birthrate, caused by nuclear radiation and pollutants, by relegating fertile women to the role of Bilhah-like Handmaids, the breeders of society. (In fact, all Gilead women are assigned to one of eight roles, each distinguished by its own uniform.) In such a patriarchal society where religion,...
(The entire section is 828 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Sometime in the past, Protestant fundamentalists assassinate the U.S. president and the Congress and set up a theocratic regime called the Republic of Gilead. In this totalitarian state, women are under the domination of men. They cannot hold jobs, own property, or have bank accounts in their own names. Nor are they allowed to read or write. Forced into the role of Handmaid, Offred is stripped of her own name and called by her master’s name, Fred, preceded by “of.”
Pollution and nuclear accidents make sterility a problem in Gilead (though officially only women could be sterile). Fertile women who are political dissidents or who are in marriages considered outside the law of the church, such as second marriages after divorce, are conscripted to serve as concubines to the political leaders of Gilead, whose wives are often sterile or past the age of childbearing.
Offred is obliged to endure an act of copulation with the Commander once a month in the hope that she will have a child. During the act, she rests between the legs of the Commander’s wife in a ritual believed to be sanctioned by biblical precedent. In the Old Testament, Rachel commands Jacob to sleep with her maid Billah: “Go in unto her, and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may have children by her.” Offred hopes to conceive because it is her only safeguard against being sent to the “colonies,” where women viewed as expendable are sent to clean up battlefields or...
(The entire section is 910 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapters 1-6: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 - Summary
Offred: a newly assigned Handmaid, and the narrator
Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Sara: guards at the Re-Education Center, armed with electric cattle prods
It is night at the Rachel and Leah Re-education (Red) Center in the heartland of the Republic of Gilead. The Center, housed in a former high school, is where young white women are prepared for their role as replenishers of the population, Handmaids. On her army cot in the dormitory, once the school gym, Offred muses about what the room must have been like before Gilead.
She thinks about the basketball games played here, and how it must have looked decorated for school dances: the excitement, the fashionable clothing, the music. Now it’s such a sad place, and so silent, since talking is forbidden.
As she often does, Offred remembers her past life, how as a teenager she yearned for the future with all its possibilities. Ruefully, she reminds herself that this Red Center, with its armed guards and barbed wire, is her future.
All she can yearn for now is an exchange of glances with the other inmates, even a few words with the armed Angels who stand outside the fence with their backs firmly turned away from the exercise yard. But any Angel (Gilead’s Gestapo) who looked at her or spoke to her would be severely punished, as would she.
Instead, she thinks about the ways she and the other Handmaids...
(The entire section is 3210 words.)
Chapters 7-12: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 7 - Summary
Moira: Offred's feminist friend from college
Offred's mother: single mother and ardent feminist
Offred's unnamed daughter
Offred lies on her bed, feeling this time is her own; there are no signal bells, nothing to stop her reveries. She can let her thoughts drift back to the happier past.
She recalls working on a term paper, and Moira suggesting they go for a beer, which they do, with Offred’s money.
Then she remembers a demonstration her mother took her to as a child. A crowd of mostly women was throwing magazines on a bonfire. A woman urged Offred to throw a magazine on the fire and she did. She glimpsed at some of the magazine’s contents—pornography—but she was too young to know what it meant.
Her next recollection is much more painful: the time her daughter was taken from her. Offred appears to have been sedated and not really aware of what was happening. Although she was told her daughter would be well cared for, she believed the girl had been killed.
Returning to the present, she says she wishes this were only a made-up story she is telling. Then she would have some control over its events and outcome. She wonders if the story is truth or fiction. She knows it is both the truth and a story she is telling in her head. Telling a story implies an audience, she thinks. She thinks it would be comforting to imagine someone reading...
(The entire section is 2682 words.)
Chapters 13-18: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 13 - Summary
Remembering when she could walk through art galleries, Offred recalls certain nineteenth-century paintings of Oriental harems, calling them pictures of “suspended animation, about waiting,” precisely what her life is now.
This reminds her of reading about “pig balls,” toys made for pigs to play with, to overcome their boredom as they are fattened for the slaughter. She also remembers learning in a college psychology course about rats that would give themselves electric shocks to have something to do. Clearly, she can relate to both of these.
She wonders if the Handmaid-trainees at the Red Center were drugged to make them so lethargic. How else could they have endured the boredom, all that waiting?
This reminds her of Moira’s arrival at the Red Center, three weeks after Offred’s arrival, and the boost it had given her. They had managed several secret, whispered conversations in the toilets, Offred’s first real communication since her capture.
Lying down on the hooked rug to nap, she thinks again about her body, which she once commanded: what to do, where to go, etc. Now it defines her: only it, not she, has purpose.
Half-asleep, she dreams of Luke, but he won’t look at her and doesn’t seem to hear her. She reminds herself that he may be dead.
Then she dreams about her daughter and the two of them fleeing through underbrush with the child drugged...
(The entire section is 2324 words.)
Chapters 19-24: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 19 - Summary
Offred dreams that she awakens in her former home and opens the bedroom door to find her daughter running toward her, open-armed. She wonders if this, and dreams like it, are just dreams, or if perhaps it’s her present life that is the dream, a nightmare from which she’ll soon awaken. But she fights the temptation to believe her present life is the unreal one, for her sanity tells her otherwise, and her sanity is the one thing she still possesses.
Awake, she sees the FAITH cushion and speculates that there must have been companions embroidered with HOPE and CHARITY, but what has become of them? Perhaps Serena Joy, ever neat and thrifty, has put them in Rita’s and Cora’s rooms.
Then, another bland breakfast arrives. While Offred eats, the Birthmobile van arrives, and Cora summons her. Seated in the Birthmobile, she asks who is to give birth. It is Ofwarren—Janine.
Offred remembers that the chances of a healthy baby are only one in four. Radiation, toxicity of air and water, and chemicals in food have taken their toll on human reproduction. Offred remembers the school desk at the Center where she sat during Aunt Lydia’s talks on the fertility problem. It was etched with messages, “J.H. loves B.P.”, for example, which summoned up the world of adolescent dating and love, things that ceased to exist years ago. Now there is no love, and sex is regulated by the state.
(The entire section is 2507 words.)
Chapters 25-30: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 25 - Summary
Offred is awakened by a scream and a crash. Finding Offred asleep on the floor, half in the closet, Cora had thought her dead, a suicide, and in her shock has dropped the breakfast tray. If she brings a second breakfast, she will have to explain what happened, so Offred says she wasn’t really hungry and will make do with the toast, still edible. Cora says she will pretend she dropped the tray and broke the dishes on the way out of Offred’s room; Offred is pleased that Cora will lie for her.
Soon Offred visits the Commander two or three nights a week, whenever she is signalled by Nick. On the second visit, they again play Scrabble, then he offers her a treat: a glimpse at an old copy of Vogue magazine, something forbidden in Gilead.
She devours its fashion photos of bold, confident women, almost a different species from the women now. When Offred asks the Commander why he has it, he says that some in Gilead appreciate such things, which are not dangerous in the right hands.
At their third meeting, Offred asks him for some skin cream, and he brings her some at their next tryst. He is surprised when she says there is nowhere she can hide it because her room is searched. His ignorance angers her, but she uses the cream all the same.
Chapter 25 - Analysis
It is significant to Offred that Cora offers to lie about the broken dishes. Cora was always the friendlier of the two...
(The entire section is 2331 words.)
Chapters 31-40: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 31 - Summary
It is July fifth, and Offred now has a lighter-weight version of the Handmaid gown. On another shopping trip she and Ofglen find two new corpses hung on the Wall, one a Catholic wearing a placard with an upside-down cross, the other marked with the letter J. Since Jewish corpses bear a yellow star, Offred wonders what this J stands for: Jehovah’s Witness, perhaps, or Jesuit. All religions except Gilead’s official one are banned.
They pass what once was Memorial Hall, where undergraduates ate in the early days of the university. Moira had told her that women were forbidden to enter; if they did, they were pelted with buns. She doesn’t like Moira’s holding a grudge over something that happened in the past.
Pausing there, Ofglen tells Offred what “us” means: it refers to Mayday, the underground network. She says it is highly compartmentalized, so if anyone is interrogated, she will know only a few other members.
Back home, Offred sees Nick’s signal that the Commander wants to see her that night. On her way to the back door, Offred is called over by Serena Joy, who says she can sit and offers her a cushion. Serena Joy asks if there is any sign yet of pregnancy and, when Offred says no, remarks, “Your time is running out.” She adds: “Maybe he can’t.... Maybe you should try it another way.” She adds that Ofwarren was made pregnant by a doctor, and suggests Offred try this, but...
(The entire section is 4021 words.)
Chapters 41-46 and Historical Notes: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 41 - Summary
Offred apologizes for her story’s fragmentary nature, its pain, and lack of resolution. She says how hard it is having to relive these events and suffer her devastating boredom, but she is determined to hide nothing. She is even determined to honestly relate the part of her story in which she claims she does not behave well.
She says she chooses to return to Nick’s room on many evenings. Although their affair is very dangerous, she still views his apartment as a haven of safety “where we huddle together while the storm goes on outside.” She tells him her real name and confides in him about everything except Luke and the previous Offred. Nick tells her little about himself.
One night, she has Nick put his hand on her belly to feel the new life stirring inside her—but she’s not sure it’s true. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, as it is too early to tell.
Ofglen encourages Offred to go into her Commander’s study to look through his papers, but Offred shies away from this, saying she is afraid. In actuality, she has grown indifferent to the Commander, now that she has become so serious about Nick. When Ofglen pressures her again to work for the resistance, promising her that the Mayday people could get her out if it became too dangerous, Offred realizes she no longer even desires escape. “I want to be here with Nick, where I can get at him,” she says to herself. Ofglen senses...
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