The Handmaid's Tale Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

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What is the purpose of the many repetitions of "night" in The Handmaid's Tale? Is it to reflect Offred's memory at nighttime?

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Night represents freedom from society's rules and restrictions. Offred carries out her enforced duties as a handmaid when the sun is shining. However, at night Offred is alone in her bedroom, able to take off her red uniform and be alone with her own thoughts and memories. She hydrates her dry skin with smuggled butter and recalls her former life, where she was happily married and had a child of her own. During her indoctrination period in the old gym, all of the handmaids shared names and discussed their former lives under the cover of darkness.

Later on, Offred comes to learn what the night means to other characters as well. Commander Fred meets with Offred secretly at night, just so he has someone else to speak to or play board games with without being watched. This suggests that even the privileged commanders are imprisoned by the systems they helped implement because they too are denied love and intimacy in the name of religion. Offred is also smuggled out to have sex with Nick the...

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