Craig White's Literature Courses

Critical Sources

Text Guide for

Margaret Atwood,

The Handmaid's Tale (1986)


Characters (roughly in order of appearance)


Aunt Lydia

Commander (i.e. "Fred")

Serena Joy, the Commander's Wife, birth name: Pam

Rita and Cora, "Marthas"






"she," Offred's lost daughter


Terms / Glossary / Allusions 

218 Balm / Bomb in Gilead: rare perfume mentioned in Bible, named for region now in Jordan

303 "emotion recollected, if not in tranquility, at least post facto": paraphrase of "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility," from William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)

117 "From each one according to her ability; to each one according to his needs."<--"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," from Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)

"gravid smell of earth and grass" (111): gravid = pregnant, heavy with child

"greatly multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions" (114): Genesis 3.16. [Yahweh speaks to Eve as he drives her and Adam from Eden:] Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.

Libertheos ): (p. 25: ) Liberation Theology, Marxist-influenced theology ascendant in Latin America, 1960s-80s. 

Lily of the Valley perfume (p. 80): name taken from the Bible's Song of Solomon 2:1: "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley." Also the name of a popular Christian hymn written in the 1870s for the Salvation Army by Charles W. Fry (1837-1882), who with his family started the Salvation Army's first brass band.

80 marquetry end table: marquetry refers to veneer or thin pieces of wood applied decoratively to cabinets, tables, or chairs; for illustrations, see

Marthas: in the Bible's Gospel of Luke (10: 38-42), Jesus visits the home of sisters Mary and Martha, where Mary sits at his feet to learn while Martha remains busy in the kitchen. Therefore the Republic of Gilead assigns some women to be "Marthas," i.e. cooks or kitchen workers. In the home represented in Handmaid's Tale, the two Marthas who work in the kitchen are Cora and Rita.

Merry Widow (242): a plumed hat, popularized by actress Lily Elsie in the title role of the operetta The Merry Widow (1908). See

Nolite te bastardes carborundum (first on p. 52; interpreted on p. 187)

120 You were a wanted child . . . pronatalist: Pronatalism or Natalism promotes childbearing as beneficial to society and human survival; Antinatalism assigns a negative evaluation to procreation and birth.

Quakers (pp. 83 et passim) (follow link to summary of Quakers or "Society of Friends," a pacifist, social-justice Christian church)

Rachel, Leah, & Bilbab (p. 88, et passim) In the Bible's Genesis 29, Rachel was the Jewish patriarch Jacob's second but favorite wife; Leah, Rachel's sister, was Jacob's first wife; Rachel, unlike Leah, was infertile and gave Jacob her maidservant Bilhah as a surrogate mother. After Bilhah gave birth to two sons, Rachel conceived Joseph, who became the next leader of the Jewish people.

300 Sumptuary Laws [sumptuary = pertaining to or regulating expenditure]

Les Sylphides (p. 70): a 1909 ballet blanc—a dance scene in which dances wear all white dresses or tutus—choreographed in 1909 by Michel Fokine with music by Frederic Chopin orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. A sylphide (French) is a young sylph or ethereal spirit, or in transferred meaning a young, graceful girl.

119 I see my mother . . . Take Back the Night: international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms

Early Take Back the Night events include a protest in San Francisco against pornography in 1978. One of the first "Take Back the Night" marches was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October 1975, after the murder of a microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone.

168 cf. Tibetan prayer wheels 

46 true shape of things to come [allusion to title of H.G. Wells novel, 1933]


Possible historical references from 1980s

p. 83 anchorman cf. Pres. Ronald Reagan (1981-89): elderly patriarchal figure who assures that secure traditional past will return if disturbances repressed

p. 121 a backlash. History will absolve me: popular term for 1980s social reaction against feminism and for traditional family values, later codified by Susan Faludi's nonfiction Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991).





Comparison with The Dispossessed

14 what did I have to trade? [cf. Shevek]

20 youngest most dangerous. They haven't yet learned about existence through time.

31 The Wall

47 hands empty, full

56-7 newspaper stories like bad dreams . . . too melodramatic (cf. Birdseed)

72 Janine: self-criticism sessions; cf. Dispossessed, Tirin

268 What did I have to give? . . . not munificent but thankful; beggar's knock




General reading notes

"Best lack all conviction" could be adaptive in boom-bust revenge cycles?

review Parable of the Talents with Handmaid's Tale

Utopias concern time, chronotope?

both Atwood and Le Guin are poets, e.g. p. 39

Men's Salvagings [etc.] as public ceremony, spectacle

challenge of narrative vs. mimetic detail

Utopia as hope? You-hope-ia?

83 Resettlement of the Children of Ham

question: reconcile urge to read as feminist text with utopia; the gazxe, the body dismembered

Why important to acknowledge utopian dimensions of dystopia? (cf. Anthem) 119 some ideas sound, but Godless


question whether concern over births anticipates recent white panic over low white fertility rates and high fertility rates among immigrants, Muslims

question: why book popular (e.g. sequels)

Question on HT as dystopia--whole person divided, families separated

reading or literacy as essential to utopia? > free exchange of thought

113 you are the shock troops . . . march out in advance [utopian vanguard]

confiscate smartphones?

utopia humanizes? dystopia dehumanizes?

how much is self-reflection on language and feelings boomerish?

Commander as human: she likes some things about him; he does terrible things

utopias seem exotic, then see them everywhere, essential to social or cultural narratives; utopia / salvation necessary for most cultural narratives (romance)

x-lecture: utopias like religion: prolific, long-winded, infinitely provisional

limits of novel: privileges private over public

population: if we won't solve it, it will solve itself

Gretchen to visit for HT ?

p. 237 dialogue as expository? > mimetic? (references to absent representations)

+ extend range of human; shared language; figuration

human / humane as near absolute value (add to "human?")

"Historical notes": cf. Always Coming Home, anthropology & Handmaid's Tale  postscript

is smell a counter-sense to male gaze?

glossary: Argentina, adpotion of children of Disappeared

Atwood, In Other Worlds



Reading notes


xiii 1984 handwriting, manual typewriter; Iron Curtain

spied on, silences, changes of subject, obligque conveying of information

xiv sf, speculative fiction, utopias, dystopias

sermonize, allegory, x-plausibility

imaginary garden

no imaginary gizmos

Cambridge MS, Puritan theological seminary, Harvard Wall

biblical precedent: 1 man, 4 women, 12 sons

xv Handmaid's Tale < Cantebury Tales, fairy and folk tales

40+ languages, film, opera, ballet graphic novel, Hulu TV series


slut-shaming of Janine

xvi women gang up on each other, social media

all pwoer relative

"feminist" novel?

not secondary players

xvii anti-religion?

totalitarian clothing [contrast Ecotopia, News from Nowhere]

predition? > anti-prediction

literature of witness

2 reading audiences: academic conference in future, recent American election



Ch 1  3 old sex . . . yearned for the future

4 blankets still said U.S.

guards picked from Angels

something exchanged, some deal, some trade-off

still had our bodies


Ch 2 7 the kind of touch they like: folk art, archaic, amde by women . . . no further use

A return to traditional values

7 Aunt Lydia: cf. army

8 I intend to last . . . I am alive, live, breathe

Aunt Lydia: not a prison but a privilege

cf nunneries: bells, few mirrors

red shoes, not for dancing

white wings, x-seeing, being seen

the room, x-my room, my

9 large, rich family

color code for rank; Rita in Martha's dress

the time before

10 the Colonies . . . the choice

the Unwomen

still real coffee

mischief of bodies

nod our heads as punctuation

exchange remedies

11 [70s idiom] I hear where you're coming from

an exchange, of sorts

Marthas: unofficial news

fraternize > sororize

tokens with pictures for object of exchange

Ch. 3 12 tulips read, darker crimson, cut, healing

12 garden domain of commander's wife

order, maintain and care for (cf. Genesis)

13 Angels at the front lines

cross and star pattern

Why envy me?

13 unsure about our exact status

a position of honor

So, you're the new one

14 cigarettes from black market > hope

no real money anymore

14 what did I have to trade? [cf. Shevek]

15 business transaction

x-ma'am, not a Martha

16 wouldn't have liked her, nor she me

voice of a doll

they can hit us . . . scriptural precedent.

One of the things we fought for [no divorce)

TV: Growing Souls Gospel Hour, Serena Joy

smile and cry at same time

So it was worse than I thought.


Ch 4 17-18 Nick, no woman, not even one. Misfit, winks

18 What if I were to report him? . . . Perhaps he is an Eye.

18 Sidewalks kept much cleaner

19 Ofglen quietly ordodox, maybe a real believer

war going well, defeated more of the rebels

20 Baptists

false news . . . must mean something

first barrier, red hexagon = stop

lanterns, floodlights, machine guns, pillboxes

Green uniforms of the Guardians of the Faith

20 youngest most dangerous. They haven't yet learned about existence through time.

21 passes inspected, stamped > Compucheck

event, small defiance of rule . . . possibilities, peepholes

never allowed solitude

Commanders of the Faithful

Salvagings, Prayvaganzas, Birthmobile

21-22 Black van with winged Eye

22 no more magazines, films

Ch 5 23 Doubled, I walk the street

23 street in a model town . . . no children

23 heart of Gilead . . . Gilead is within you

23 no lawyers, university closed

Luke and I . . . children, garden

24 stupid dresses: Econowives: not divided to functions, have to do everything, if they can

woman in black a widow

Women not protected then, couldn't run at night

rules never spelled out but every woman knew

laundromats: my own clothes, soap, money, control

freedom to and freedom from

24-5 dress store, Lilies of the Field, letters painted out

25 women seemed able to choose

society dying of too much choice

Central America lost to Libertheos

shopping, see someone knew from time before

26 vastly pregnant, a magic presence

carrier of life, closer to death


Humongous, word of my childhood [Bakhtin period-worldview]

27 not many things plastic

27 she [daughter]

27 tourists from Japan

28 women seem undressed, took so little time to change our minds

28 Westernized

Modesty is invisibility

To be seen is to be penetrated

29 smell of nail polish

ch 6 30 We have a choice

30 thinking of past, pick out beautiful things, believe al like that

Football stadium, Men's Salvagings

31 church museum; only more recent history offends them

31 The Wall

32 six more bodies hanging

white coats, like doctors or scientists

drawing of human fetus

searched through hospital records . . . 33 informants, ex-nurses

33 two women required for evidence

like war criminals, crimes retroactive

made into examples

time travelers, anachronisms

ordinary is what you are used to


ch 7 37 lie & lay . . . I lie, then, . . .

plaster eye in ceiling

Moira, purple, gold . . . beer . . . paper due PSYC, ENGL, ECON

38 date rape . . . borrowing $5

park with mother . . . women burning books, magazines [unforeseen consequences of limiting expression?]

39 still on fire, parts of women's bodies, turning to black ash

I know I lost time

Where is she? . . . with people who are fit

I would like to believe this is a story I am telling . . . control over ending

writing forbidden

40 telling [story] to someone . . . pretend you can hear me

Waiting Room

ch 8 43 weather is almost like June

43 three new bodies on wall

43 years ago, sect wars . . . Gender Treachery (purple)

43 May day    44 Mayday . . . help me

44 funeral [miscarriage] . . . Unbaby?

hands over hearts . . . Econowives do not like us

45 "Under His Eye" . . . [poetic image]

All flesh is weak > grass, I corrected her

Serena Joy = Pam: x-singing > making speeches: women stay home

46 funny? > in earnest

46 Serena Joy become speechless

46 true shape of things to come [H.G. Wells allusion]

defeated, unable

47 hands empty, full

yeast, nostalgic, smell, kitchens, mothers [free association, poetry]

all envy each other something

48 ain't like you're common . . . speak up

48 Dishtowels same, flashes of normality

talking about me as though I can't hear, cf. 38

49 Commander, violating custom . . . something shown, but what is it?

In my froom? I called it mine.

ch 9 50 trying not to tell stories, or this one

50 someone has lived in this room, before me

Luke in flight from his wife

51 Loved me? just an affair?

thought we had problems. How know we were happy?

like something you'd make up

52 Old love cf. p. 3 old sex

52 these attacks of the past

What is to be done?

Nolite te bastardes carborundum

a message in writing, forbidden by that very fact

imagine the woman, turn her into Moira

53 which one?

a grapevine, an underground of sorts

ch 10 54 Amazing Grace, Heartbreak Hotel outlawed

56 Moira underwhore party

56 Is that how we lived then? . . . by ignoring

Nothing changes instantaneously

56-7 newspaper stories like bad dreams . . . too melodramatic (cf. Birdseed)

57 We were the people who were not in the papers.

Commander silverhaired. The one before this was bald, so I suppose he's an improvement.

58 coed dorms reveerted

ch 11  59 doctor's office, Compudoc

59 nurse with pistol

60 snake and sword, broken bits of symbolism from time before

60 doctor x-see face; torso only

60 tic of speech from the other time

60 I could help you . . . never know it isn't his.

61 old guys can't make it, or sterile (forbidden word); only women fruitful or barren

generic term: we are all honey

shipped to Colonies, Unwoman. None of this is said, but knowledge of his power

the choice that terrifies me. A way out, a salvation

ch 12  62 bath a requirement, also a luxury

62 St. Paul: hair long or a close shave

63 nakedness shameful, immodest

x-look at body, determines me so completely

she's there with me

eleven months old, a woman stole her out of supermarket cart

both of us had jobs

Luke at meat counter, some differences, studies said

63-4 her baby, the Lord gave it her, sent a sign

64 ghost of dead girl; x-things, x-attached to material world

Blessed are meek, x-inherit

easier to think dead; no hope, wasted effort

puritan aids (brush, pumice)

65 tattoo on ankle, eye + four digits, reverse passport

a national resource

that film about the women kneeling in the square

some of what we uised to call privacy left

ways of making her resentments felt

a worthy vessel

66 wonder how she [Serena Joy] manages to get herself noticed.

my self a thing I must compose

a made thing, not something born

V. Nap

Ch 13 69 spare time, harems, boredom, erotic

69 pig balls, pig marketers

70 caged rats, pigeons

Domestic Science room, Les Sylphides

pill or drug in food to keep us calm

Moira to gymnasium

71 Testifying. Janine gangraped at 14

72 Janine: self-criticism sessions; cf. Dispossessed, Tirin

You are an example [utopia]

72 nakedness of men's lives

73 public display of privates, flashin gof a badge

73 blood - expectations of others become my own

my body : instrument of pleasure, transportation, will > womb

[dream of apartment and Luke]

running with her . . . being carried away

VI. Household

ch 14 79 as if I'm a piece of furniture

79 sitting room subdued, symmetrical; shape money takes when it freezes

80 passing paintings off as ancestors

80 Serena Joy's tastes: hard lust for quality; soft sentimental cravings

80 marquetry end table

Lily of the Valley perfume

81 Commander head of the household

all need to be here, the Ceremony demands it

82[flowers =] genital organs of plants

TV: gospel, preacher cf. businessman

news could be faked; read beneath it

Appalachian Highlands: Angles of the Apocalypse x Baptist guerillas

83 anchorman cf. Reagan

heretical sect of Quakers

83 Resettlement of the Children of Ham

84 [memory] another name

the little girl who is now dead . . . going on a picnic

85 forged passports, x-pay in $, Compucount

Don't think that way, Moira said. Think that way and you'll make it happen

ch 15 86 Commander black uniform

87 Bible locked up, read to but we cannot read

To be a man, watched by women, must be entirely . . .

87-8 the stub of himself, his extra, sensitive thumb, tentacle

88 a darkness composed of women


just fine to be a man like that . . . very silent

88 he has the word. How we squandered it, once.

88 Rachel, Leah, & Bilbab

89 sin of reading

Blessed are the silent. Scripture made up, left out

90 smell of her crying

Nolite te bastardes carborundum . . .

91 Moira beaten; feet and hands not essential

ch 16 94 What he is fucking is the lower part of my body

94 x-a lot of choice but some, and this is what I chose

95 not recreation, serious business


ch 17 96 only the insides of our bodies important

96 decree of the wives, x-attractive

97 touched again, in love or desire

a wishing moon

to be held and told my name . . . I repeat my former name

98 someone in the room, behind me

VII. Night

ch 18 103 nobody dies from lack of sex . . . lack of love

106 She'll remember us and we will be all three of us together

contradictory way of believing

VIII. Birth Day

ch 19 one of my homes (dreaming)

109 mother stays home from work [private-public conflict]

sanity a valuable possession, save it [for] when the day comes

114 [free association] [words] None of these facts has any connection with the others . . . litanies I use to compose myself

114 what God must look like: an egg

the minimalist life

111 a familiar

the siren

111 gravid smell of earth and grass

red Birthmobile . . . Ofwarren

112 Unbaby? (chances 1 in 4) Whatever it is must be carried to term

112 air, toxic molecules, fatty cells

myself, my body, skeleton to an election

exploding atomic power plants, San Andreas Fault

mutant syphilis

113 you are the shock troops . . . march out in advance [utopian vanguard]

graph population birthrate, past zero line of replacement

no future? excuse . . . sluts

habits of former times lavish, decadent, immoral

pathos of all vanished civilizations

no dates after mid-80s; schools closed, lack of children

114 some masculine pursuit (read)

no anesthetics . . . greatly multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions

blue Birthmobile, for Wives

115 No Agent Orange in her family. [anachronism[

Janine thinks of nothing

ch 20 116 pig out [70s]

116 master bedroom, good name

117 she's one of us . . . this district

117 From each one according to her ability; to each one according to his needs.--St. Paul?

a transitional generation > no memories


118 projection equipment . . . old porno films . . . woman cut to pieces

Unwoman documentary

119 some ideas sound, but Godless

119 I see my mother . . . Take Back the Night

120 pro-choice slogans

120 You were a wanted child . . . pronatalist

121 What use man?

121 a backlash. History will absolve me.

women's lives, bodies

Luke cooks

model offspring, incarnation of her ideas

I want her, everything back . . . no point in this wanting

ch 21 123 smell of our own, flesh, organic . . . smell of matrix

124 Alma

124 Identify with your body

125 spiked the grape juice

Commander's Wife behind Janine on Birthing Stool

126 Angela

127 [sympathetic lactation]

Mother, you wanted a woman's culture. [satire?]

ch 22 128 hats like an idea of paradise

129 story of Moira < alliances

Aunts allowed to read and write

132 Moira marched straight out . . . And disappeared.

taste for freedom, finding walls secure.

Moira our fantasy

ch 23 134 a reconstruction

134 man reading . . . never subjected to temptation you must forgive, a man, as a woman

135 Commander: kiss me

136 illegal to be alone with Commander

two-legged wombs

a small crack in the wall

137 Computalk, pen-holder set, papers

books . . . an oasis of the forbidden

Hello . . . old form of greeting

138 Scrabble!

139 like being on a date, conspiracy

IX Night

ch 24 143 [aphorism] You can think clearly only with your clothes on.

143 perspective, 3-D x face smashed up against a wall

live in moment, x-where I want to be

Time's a trap

thirty-three years old, brown hair, 5-7, viable ovaries, one last chance

But something has changed, tonight.

144 I can ask for something [exchange]

Men are sex machines

documentary (Holocaust)

146 invent a humanity for anyone at all

unbutton . . . broken . . . noise inside body, broken place

Nolite te bastardes carborundum

X Soul Scrolls ch 25  151 Cora: one of the early signs

152 We for me, a link between us

153 she shears

153 something subversive about this garden of Serena's; a sense of buried things bursting upwards

[aphorism] Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.

Tennyson garden

153 Rendezvous, terraces, sibilants run up my spine

metamorphosis run wild

154 an arrangement . . . the signal is Nick

The difficulty is the wife, as always. [humor? sarcasm?]

Marthas x-retire, not many old women anymore

155 a bargain < terms of exchange

156 a little present, a women's magazine, Vogue [est. 1892]

157 What was in them was promise

Having broken the main taboo, why hesitate over a minor one?

images of my childhood: bold, striding

158 dangerous in hands of multitudes

too banal to be true

some hand lotion?

159 ? I could have slapped him

truly ignorant of the real conditions under which we lived

only a whim

Ch. 26 160 pretend not to be present, in the flesh

161 like being on an operating table

no longer a thing . . . it complicates [dehumanization]

taken something from Serena Joy

162 now had power over her

162 women will all live in harmony together [utopia]

162 when the population level is up

Women united for a common end [utopia]

163 each performing her appointed task

a little garden for each one of you

fact is, I'm his mistress

happier than before, something to do

To him I am not entirely empty.

ch 27 164 sea fisheries defunct

all extinct like the whales?

165 Ofglen less passive, melancholy

166 Women's Salvagings

store known as Soul Scrolls, franchise

167 Holy Rollers . . . print prayers, ordered by Compuphone

Offred, Ofglen into each other's eyes . . . risk

168 Do you think God listens to those machines?

168 cf. Tibetan prayer wheels

I thought you were a true believer

You can join us . . . 169 Us? . . . we.

169 hope is rising . . . an opening

170 something sharp and brutal without relief: it wasn't me

ch. 28 172 first job . . . worked a computer in an insurance company

172 [realism] cockroaches, dripping sink, linoleum

172 Moira: create Utopia by shutting herself up in a woman-only enclave

173 new apartment, job in a library

transferring books to computer discs

jobs / Book of Job

paper money > plastic cards > Compubank

174 after the catastrophe, shot president, machine-gunned Congress

blamed on Islamic fantatics

you and me up against the wall

174 newspapers censored, shut down


Pornomarts shut [no internet]

It's high time . . .

175 children . . . disappearances

man replaces woman, inequality not valid

176 Not fired. Let go

177we deserved it?

178 Compucards with F frozen . . . push a few buttons [fragility, vulnerability of advanced technology]

Women can't hold property anymore

179 transfer account to Luke

179 I'll go underground

Luke patronizing

some other army

180 couldn't tell who was doing it

x-free assembly

more housework, more baking

careful to exchange nothing

porn riots, abortion riots

181 I wanted from her a life more ceremonious

mother-daughter not ideal, worked out well enough

Body language

Everyone's on the take

182 [Luke] doesn't mind this. Not each other's. I am his.

ch. 29 184 Commander positively daddyish

184 What would you like to do tonight?

185 exchange with Ofglen

market research, a scientist

Nolite te bastardes carborundum. Write it down.

186 Pen is envy

Not real Latin . . . a joke

same ink as hair on Venus: Nolite te bastardes carborundum

187 Don't let the bastards grind you down.

She hanged herself. Serena found out.

If my life is bearable, maybe what we're doing is all right after all

188 I have something on him now.

I would like to know . . . What's going on

VI. Night

ch 30 191 scent, night-blooming flowers

192 cannot be exchanged

aphorism Moira: can't help what you feel, can help how you behave

192-3 create an it M kill [dehumanize / objectify]

193 the Eyes of God

194 wanted us to look like something Anglo-Saxon

195 [70s jargon] ripped off

XII Jezebel's

ch 31 191 x-Fourth of July; Labor Day for mothers

199 tell time by the moon; Lunar, not Solar. [feminist symbolism]

200 Jews > Sons of Jacob. Choice: convert or emigrate to Israel

201 Amputated speech

Moira grudge-holding against past

202 password: Mayday . . . networks. Networking

204 Maybe he can't. God or the Commander? Heresy either way.

206 something you want . . . a picture

ch 32 209 Radio Free American < Cubans . . . universal daycare

210 [Commander] way up there, the very top

210 main problem with men. Nothing to work, fight for.

211 We thought we could do better . . . Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some. [utopia]

ch 33 2112 from a distance: picturesque

213 off to the Prayvaganza

213 God is a national resource

214 exchange news more freely

Janine paired with new woman; "a shredder after all"

215 She thinks it's her fault.

they don't have the same feelings we do. [dehumanization / objectification]

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

216 right back here. You aren't there anymore. That's all gone.

ch 34 218 Balm / Bomb in Gilead

219 [public spectacle, ceremony] [utopia]

marriages encouraged, by mothers

Do they remember?

Commander: given more than taken away

This way they all get a man

Money was the only measure of worth. [utopia / dystopia]

220 Those years an anomaly . . . return to Nature's norm

women's Prayvaganzas for group weddings; men's for military victories

ceremony: renounce celibacy, sacrifice for common good

an odor of witch

[confusion over gender ID?]

221 Genesis! . . . saved by childbearing

Angels will qualify for Handmaids . . . but you girls are stuck

222 cameraderie among women

power in whispering obscenities about those in power

223 find out and tell us . . . anything you can

ch 35 224 unfamiliar uniforms

225 falling in love . . . the way you understood yourself

We were falling women.

God is love, but we reversed that.

226 precautions like prayers

227 change was for the better always

a refugee from the past

228 a Polaroid print . . . network of Marthas

white dress . . . I am not there

ch 36 229 everying this evening is little . . . diminish things, myself included

229 He prefers me frivolous

230 [sexy lingerie] [public humiliation]

black market

an enticement in this thing

231 subverts perceived respectable order of things [Bakhtin carnival]

232 Nick: both invisible, functionaries

233 an evening rental

ch 37 234-5 men in uniform, women all kinds

235 melange, whatever scrounce or salvage [tradition?]

Joy? Have they chosen?

Like walking into the past . . . but the mix is different

truants; official creed denies them

236 keep your mouth shut and look stupid

236 showing off, demonstrating his mastery of the world

feet tired . . . grateful [human as exchange, shared subjectivity]

men not homogeneous [human?]

237 Everyone's human, after all. You can't cheat Nature . . . demands variety for men . . .

typo than > that

procreational strategy

Nature's plan

He says this as if he believes it.

irony, but he doesn't acknowledge it. [x-human]

really like to talk with the women

only for officers [military as utopian organization]

Who are these people? . . . I mean the women.

quite a collection

238 Sociologist, or was. Lawyer. Executive.

Then I see her. Moira.

239 [Playboy Bunny] She sees me. . . . Oour old signal

240 show the tag . . . know you're taken

ch 38 241 rest area, mirror

242 like the Whore of Babylong . . . supposed to?

You pick that out? . . . thought it was me

Merry Widow

[characterization, Moira]

244 [Moira's account] I've tried to make it sound as much like her as I can


245 Q for Quaker

246 Underground Femaleroad

248 Colonies burn dead bodies; toxic dumps and radiation spills

old women, a quarter men (Gender Traitor)

249 Nobody in here with viable ovaries

indifference, lack of volition

Butch paradise

250 I'd like to tell a story . . . don't know how she ended

ch 39 251 Bathroom as retreat [utopia]--disinfectant, isolation

feel comforted

252 saw your mother in that film

that jauntiness

253 don't call the police

sweeping up deadly toxins the way they used to use up old women, in Russia, sweeping dirt

254 Why bring me here? ownership, experiment

You said you wanted to know

XIII. Night

ch 40 259 heat lightning, phosphorescence, infrared [science fiction]

259 smell of it or him either [i.e., they did it]

blue shape, red shape, eye of mirror, myself, my obverse (poet)

260 whispering, as if she is one of us

storm's moving closer

sex, unobserved

261 punctuation thunder

love, I'm alive in my skin again

I made that up . . . what really happened

262 acknowledgement both acting

no romance = no heroics [romance genre!]

263 no thunder . . . made up

a reconstruction: the way love feels

like to be without shame, ignorant

XIV. Salvaging

ch 41 267 wish story were different

267 so much else getting in way: gossip, secrecy

then red events

pain in story, fragments, like body caught in crossfire or pulled apart

hurts me to tell it over . . . but keep on going

268 future, heaven, prison, underground: some other place

I tell, therefore you are

268 What did I have to give? . . . not munificent but thankful

beggar's knock

benevolence & luck

269 safety, a cave

270 talk too much, tell him my real name

x-word love = romance, bad luck

Don't change anything

271 hand on my belly. It's happened.

We could get you out.

I no longer want to leave, escape

ashamed and pride; cf. war stories, seriousness

cf. settlers' wives and women who survived wars

Humanity is so adaptable

Ofglen giving up on me

ch 42 272 in case of hysteria . . . a district Salvaging, for women only

272 always segregated

273 Women's Salvagings less frequen, so well behaved

273 long rope smells of tar

273 two Handmaids, one Wife

274 two Salvagers and Aunt Lydia

275 making us watch her as she silently reads, flaunting her prerogative. Obscene

275 x-public account > copycat crimes; crimes of others a ssecret language

276 touch rope as unity, complicity

ch 43 277 form a circle

278 Particicution

279 penalty for rape is death. Deut 22:23-24 (23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. [NKJV])

He says, "I didn't . . . "

This is freedom, in my body also

280 He has become an it. [dehumanization / objectification]

280 x-rapist > a political

281 get smell off my skin

ch 44 282 She isn't Ofglen . . . 283 "I am Ofglen"

284 my body no longer for pleasure only but senses its jeopardy

285 Dear God, don't make me choose.

She hanged herself . . . She saw the van coming for her.

ch 45 286 do what they like with me. I am abject, feel their true power

287 I've been found out

XV. Night

ch 46 291 waiting, suspension. Don't let the bastards grind you down.

292 Fatigue is here, in my body . . . what gets you in the end

293 there were always two of us

293 black van, Nick, it's Mayday, calls me by my name

294 Trust me . . . snatch at this offer [exchange, reception]

245 my end or a new beginning

"Historical Notes to The Handmaid's Tale"

[utopian genre as satire?]

299 partial transcript, twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies, U. of Denay, Nunavit

Depart of Caucasian Anthropology

Professor Maryann Cresent Moon

300 Sumptuary Laws [sumptuary = pertaining to or regulating expenditure]

Iran and Gildead . . . monotheocracies

co-editor, manuscript

"Problems of Authentication"

301 homage to Chaucer

thirty tape cassettes, 80s & 90s > compact discs

The A. B. Memoirs, Diary of P.


antiquarian technician, reconstructed tape machine

music > speaking voice

302 Elvis, Boy George, Twisted Sisters [?]

not to censure but understand

303 emotion recollected, if not in tranquility, at least post facto

establish an identity for narrator

Gilead wipes computers and print-outs after purges, upheavals

304 propaganda, Save the Women societies (England)

plummeting Caucasian birthrates

birth control, intentional

R-strain syphilis & AIDS; nuclear, chemical and biological warfare, insecticides, herbicides

305 Rumania x-birth control, compulsory pregnancy tests

serial polygamy > simultaneous polygamy of Old Testament

incoproporation of previous period, esp. racism

306 Spheres of Influence Accord

sociobiological theory of natural polygamy

irony "Fred" name survives [but why wouldn't narrator change this name too?]

307 National Homelands & Jewish boat-person plans

big mistake was teaching them to read in the first place

tear a man apart [Maenads]

308 Salvagings at equinoxes, solstices

effective totalitarian regimes

control women through women themselves

[aphorism] when power scarce, a little tempting

309 sterility-causing virus < gene-splicing

310 Nick as double agent

Goddess of History

311 The human heart remains a factor

any questions?




Wikipedia article on Handmaid's Tale

 The night sections are solely about Offred, and the other sections (shopping, waiting room, household, etc.) are the stories that describe the possible life of every handmaid, though from the perspective of Offred.