Quote Analysis
“time here is measured by bells, as once in nunneries”   “as in nunnery, there are few mirrors.”    Pg.18 The negative connotation of the word “nunnery” hints the cloistered and systematic lifestyle of a nun, who has only one purpose in life: to be devoted to God, avoid being involved in the materialistic world and push away human desires. Therefore, this biblical reference to “nunnery” suggests to the readers that the narrator also lives a careful, abstaining, and restricted life with only one purpose in life. The physical appearance is unimportant and thus, ‘few mirrors’- in this extract, the name of the narrator nor the narrator’s one purpose in life in the society is not mentioned.      
“color of blood”   “red”   “red shoes, “red gloves”, “red cloak”   “I never looked good in red, it’s not my colour”.   “The colour blood which defines us”   Pg18               The language is simple and descriptive. “red”, is a common adjective used throughout the passage, it describes the pieces of apparel the narrator is wrapped in. The narrator being fully wrapped from head to toe in red leads the readers to hypothesize that this is the narrator’s state of being every day: tied up by the laws of the Republic of Gilead which has full authorities to control her life. The strong colour of red may be tied with the emotions of anger and rebellion the narrator is experiencing. It is hinted that she doesn’t enjoy being in this emotional state as she says that “I never looked good in red, it’s not my colour”. “The colour blood which defines us” may also define the colour of love, true love the narrator may have experienced in the past, and birth/reproduction, the narrator’s only role in society.    
“this could be a college guest room, for the less distinguished visitors…for ladies in reduced circumstances. That is what we are now. The circumstances have been reduced; for those of us who still have circumstances. “   “The door of the room—not my room, I refuse to say my—is not locked. In fact it doesn’t shut properly.”   pg18 This is a house, not a home. The room is not individualized or welcoming. Any Handmaid could live there, and more than one has. While on one hand the privilege of a single room can be seen as one of the few things left to Handmaids, it also denies them companionship and conversation.     The narrator emphasizes how she uses language to retain a small amount of control over her situation. She may not be able to decide much else about her life, but she can control her possessive pronouns. In this case, she refuses to think of the room she’s been assigned as hers.  
“like a distorted shadow…some fairytale figure in a red cloak… A Sister, dipped in blood.” Pg19 The “distorted shadow” adds a grey colour to the minds of the readers and thus helps in increasing the gloomy mood. The reference to “some fairy tale figure in a red cloak” suggests how unreal the narrator is feeling at the moment. This may be due to her reluctance to accept the reality and her longing to return to her past life. The last sentence, “a sister, dipped in blood” is another biblical reference and also a metaphor which explains how she is red from head to toe as if “dipped in blood”. There is a sense of exaggeration in this description which is linked to imagery which purposefully aids in the understanding of the readers.
“I hunger to commit the act of touch.”  Pg21 Metaphorical/symbolic language The narrator alters her “hunger” for something edible, bread, to what would really nourish her: touch, and, correspondingly, love. She wants to touch and be touched, to remind herself of her body and of the feelings that can develop from that sort of tactile sensation.  
“She wanted me to feel that I could not come into the house unless she said so.”   Wants to show control Hints at Serena’s jealousy shown later on Women vs women in Gilead
“They used to have dolls… I thought I was sounding like that, voice of a monotone, voice of a doll”  pg26   “Without a word she swivels, as if she’s voice-activated, as if she’s on little oiled wheels, as if she’s on top of a music box” (43) (Offred about Ofglen when shopping)                   “I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born”  pg76 The first reference to a handmaid being technological. In this case, Offred is commenting on the doll-like nature of her actions: Here, Offred resembles technology because she is acting out a scripted role; she is creating a public self that is separate from her natural identity. Later, in the fourth chapter, Offred describes how mechanical her shopping partner, Ofglen, seems. Again, a handmaid is being referred to as mechanical or technological, although this time, she is physically doll-like where Offred was emotionally doll-like.   In addition to being technological because they are mechanical and doll-like, the handmaids can be considered a technology because they are something invented and utilized by humans in an inventive way in order to achieve a goal. We can easily see how they are used to achieve the goal of procreation, but their own creation (that is, their transformation into something created) is more complex.   Offred discusses her creation while contemplating the act of waiting. Key quotation supporting the idea of the handmaids as technology. It encompasses the idea of human invention and creation, poignantly comparing her public self to a speech. Offred composes herself to be the appropriate embodiment of womanhood in Gilead which is ideally a tool used for procreation. The passage also explicitly describes a key difference between the natural and the technological; Offred is a made thing, not something born. In the hierarchy of person, place, or thing, she has clearly been demoted from person to ‘thing.’      
“Blessed be the fruit” the “accepted greeting”  “may the Lord open.” The “accepted response” Pg.29   “under his eye” “praise be”   Control through language One of the ways a society oppresses its people quickly is through language. So the handmaids are also given a new vocabulary.  The language of their new world is stiff, rote, antiquated, and God-centric. Also stripped of their linguistic power through their names
“I enjoy the power: power of a dog bone, passive but there.” Tries to take control over her body. Uses her sexuality- Offred manipulates the animalistic, simple traits of men in a way to exercise power- through her body.
“what I feel towards them is blankness.” (about the hanged bodies)   ‘Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.’   P43   Her words reflect the power of a totalitarian state like Gilead to transform a natural human response such as revulsion at an execution into ‘blankness’- Horror into normalcy Aunt Lydia’s words suggest that Gilead succeeds not by making people believe that its ways are right, but by making people forget what a different world could be like.
“Doubled, I walk the street.” Shows control, one handmaid spying on the other also women vs women. But also more symbolically:   Offred is literally doubled because she is walking beside another handmaid dressed in identical clothing. The idea of ‘doubling’ however, is an essential consequence of any oppressive totalitarian state. Each subject of such a regime naturally lives 2 lives- one official and public, the other unofficial and private. This is obviously true of Offred to an extent this is tied into the division of the novel into ‘nights’ and ‘days’.
“Gilead is within you” (aunt Lydia) pg.33 Allusion to bible- Jesus saying ‘the kingdom of God is within you”. The regime deliberately confuses a spiritual idea with a political doctrine. This quote contributes to the setting. In Gilead, everything is controlled. The place becomes part of you, not just a place where you reside. The republic of Gilead will make the choices: not the actual individuals.   
“women were not protected then” pg34 Atwood raises a dilemma for us to consider. Women used to be afraid of molestation or rape. These things do not happen in a strictly controlled regime. This is ‘freedom from’, which, as Aunt Lydia tells the Handmaids, should not be underrated; Atwood’s picture of a dystopia is not simplistic.  
“Freedom to and freedom from … Don’t underrate it” Pg34 Although the Aunts are unpleasant characters in the novel, Atwood is raising a serious moral dilemma about the nature of personal freedom and the point at which it becomes anarchy.   Despite all that the women have lost, Aunt Lydia and Gilead argue that they are free now. They have “freedom from” things like sexist catcalls and potential abuse from strangers. They would argue that the women of Gilead should be grateful for such freedoms rather than mourning the other freedoms they’ve lost.  
“its hard to look up, hard to get the full view, of the sky, of anything.” “we have learned to see the world in gasps.” Pg40 She literally can’t see it but also metaphorically restricted freedom to explore.  We as readers see Gilead in ‘gasps’ too- in Offred’s view- just like her, we don’t see the full view. This affects her reliability as a narrator- it’s her memories- can’t write it when in Gilead.
“the night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet.” Pg.47 night section   More freedom, owns it – owns the time to think of the past and escape These moments eventually give her power to establish who she was, who she is now and who she will eventually become. By doing this, she has enough strength to bide her time and keep hope that one day she would be able to once again achieve her own identity.  
“I look for the pat of butter, in the toe of my right shoe, where I hid it after dinner… As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will someday get out, that we will be touched again, in love or desire.  We have ceremonies of our own, private ones. “    Small acts of defiance- give her a sense of power also gives her a sense of identity for offered, doing something on her own that breaks the monotony of her controlled and calculated existence, gives her a feeling of self that is unattainable by following the shepherd of Gilead like a lost sheep.   Executing the heist of the flower is freeing for offered and possibly for the first time since the revolution, she feels alive.  When offered says, “I want to steal something… What should I take?  Something that will not be missed.”  (pg 120) she wants to be “doing something, on [her] own”.  The act of theft pleases the oppressed woman and makes her think, “I like this”.  Finally, she is feeling identifiable with herself.  
“you don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else.”         “I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it.”   “If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending.” – hopeful?   “It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing if in any case forbidden.”   “I’ll pretend you can hear me.” Pg.49 Narrative shifts between times   This is our first allusion to the overall structure of the narrative—which is revealed, in the Historical Notes at the end, to be an oral document—and our first indication that Offred may have an audience in mind. Or not, she’s quick to add; it’s a very contradictory, circular train of thought.  (could also reliable- rigorous research done by Piexoto)   Reliability? Sanity?     Hopeful but also reliability?     Reliability?       Hopeful, coping mechanism     Could be seen as reliable as we see her old life and how ir have informed her actions and personality in the rpesent. Also abel to empathise and creat human conncetion
“Faith is only a word, embroidered.” This sentence has more connotations than might at first be obvious: In chapter 10 Offred described the cushion in her room with ‘faith’ embroidered on it. There had presumably once been three, with the others saying ‘hope and ‘love’ Here, the reminder that love and hope seem to have been removed from Gilead is implicit in Offred’s moment of despair Also, ‘a word embroidered’ can mean language which is over-elaborate, suggesting that in Gilead the idea of religious faith is artificial.  
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” Latin phrase meaning “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” A joke phrase for the commander For Offred it is an encouragement from a previous Offred to a future one to retain her spirit and her individuality. Hints that previous Offred also had discussions with commander
“ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”     “we lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print.”   Pg66 ‘ignoring’- know about it but still purposefully ignoring it ‘ignorance’- unaware of the situation Warning to readers   Outside the chaos- not involved Didn’t take it that seriously- didn’t know people who this happened to Didn’t think this will happen to her – irrelevant But happens to her
“there’s no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially… that’s the law” Pg.70 When Offred goes to the doctor for her monthly checkup, the doctor offers to try to impregnate her, explaining that most men like the Commander are sterile. His observation shocks Offred, as Gilead statutes outlaw suggesting the possibility of male sterility. Responsibility for failure of a couple to conceive officially falls on the woman regardless of the man’s state of health. The law represents another example of society’s use of women as scapegoats.  
“I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.” Pg73   “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.”   “I’m a national resource.” Pg.75 Her body is a vessel She is cleaning it as a ritual for the commander not for relaxation. Doesn’t want to look at it because it doesn’t belong to her anymore. This passage is from Chapter 13, when Offred sits in the bath, naked, and contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she thinks about it now. Before, her body was an instrument, an extension of her self; now, her self no longer matters, and her body is only important because of its “central object,” her womb, which can bear a child. Offred’s musings show that she has internalized Gilead’s attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as objects important only for the children that they can bear. Women’s wombs are a “national resource,” the state insists, using language that dehumanizes women and reduces them to, as Offred puts it, “a cloud, congealed around a central object, which is hard and more real than I am.”  
“Her fault, her fault, her fault” “I led them on, I deserved the pain.” Pg. 82 Women vs women They psychologically changed her afterwards where she begins by saying that it was her fault for leading the men on, and that’s why she was gang raped.   
“He has something we don’t have, he has the word.”  The fact that the Handmaids cannot read the Bible means that they are not free to interpret it, rather just hear and accept the interpretations of men. She also reflects back when, at the Centre, Moira and her would listen to a recording of a man supposedly reading the Bible, even though she noticed they had changed and eliminated words.  
“there’s no longer any hand lotion or face cream, not for us. Such things are considered vanities.”   “We are containers, it’s only the insides of our bodies that are important. The outside can become hard and wrinkled for all they care, like the shell of a nut.”   Pg107   Offred tells the reader how she uses butter to put on her face and on her hands instead of lotion, as they are not allowed to use any of those things. They are considered vanity, and their outer bodies or their outer looks do not matter; it is not part of their job to keep themselves pretty. Handmaids are supposed to be used only to produce.  
“the things I believe can’t be all true. But I believe in all of them.” Pg116                                            “this is a reconstruction. All of it is a reconstruction.” Pg144 Reliability Atwood makes us aware, through Offred here and later through the Historical Notes, of the complexity of the nature of ‘truth’. There are different versions of any event. Cassette recordings is it even her reconstruction- Peixoto’s plus post-modern reading. Plus, a tale of how she remembers it, telling the reader it may not be reliable.  By putting this comment here, rather than at the end of the previous chapter, Atwood increases its significance. It no longer means simply that Offred’s account of Moira’s escape is a reconstruction, but reminds us that ‘This’ – i.e. the whole book – is one.
“a man is just a woman’s strategy of making other women.” Pg130  
“Offred’s father, according to her mother, was ‘a nice guy and all with beautiful blue eyes’ but, ‘there’s something missing in them, even the nice ones.” Pg131  
“mother… you wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one.” Pg137  
“two-legged wombs.” Pg146 In Gilead sexual activity is merely about procreation (although later, in the section ‘Jezebel’s’, we may revise this impression).  
“scrabble… forbidden”   “playing scrabble: ‘this is freedom’ pg149 Scrabble seems a remarkably innocuous game, but as it is all to do with words, with thinking about their shapes and meanings, it is seen as dangerously subversive in Gilead. Atwood’s choice of such an unlikely activity for the Commander to indulge in as a secret vice foregrounds most effectively the power of language and the recognition of its power, not only by repressive régimes but by all governments and media moguls.  
“I think of blood coming out of him, hot soup, sexual on my hands. In fact I don’t think anything if the kind. I put it in only afterwards.” Pg.150 Reliability?
“he looks us over as if taking inventory. One kneeling woman in red, one seated woman in blue, two in green” pg171  
“to him, I am not merely empty.” Pg172 The narrator’s base level of self-respect has really sunk in this demeaning position. Since everyone views her as “merely empty,” when a man sees her as anything more, she can’t help feeling something for him—even if the way he sees her brings another host of problems. Passivity
“if Moira thought she could create Utopia by shutting herself up in a women-only enclave she was sadly mistaken.” Pg181 A “women-only enclave” is not “Utopia” and neither is Gilead. Although women have a different quality of life in Gilead that could be said to include occasional improvements, they are definitely not in Utopia.  
“we’ve given [women] more than we’ve taken away.” Pg231   “what did we overlook?” commander/ “love” Offred pg 231  
“he has become an it.” Pg292 Offred said in chapter 30 that, in order to kill, you need to regard the human or animal as an ‘it’, denying its real living value. The state, she decided, had forced people to ‘kill, within yourself’.
“I resign my body freely, to the use of others. They can do what they like with me. I am abject. I feel, for the first time, their true power.” Pg298                                                      Salavaging Gilead has used fear to make her give up and shes aware of it. Offred comes to realise that a régime which is totally tyrannical and inhuman can make its citizens do anything through the desperate desire to survive  
“my real name. Why should this mean anything?”   Throughout the novel, Offred feels that her real name is a talisman, a way of preserving her personality and identity. In chapter 41 she told Nick her name because she decided to trust him. However, as Atwood does not let us know what happens to Offred, we do not know whether Nick’s use of Offred’s real name is an ultimate betrayal, or a sign that her trust was reciprocated.
“trust me… it’s all I’m left with.” Nick’s words offer a faint chance that there may still be trust, hope and even love in Gilead, where the régime may not have had the power to destroy all human relationships.   
“and so I step up, into the darkness within, or else the light.” Ambiguous ending Is the van a tomb or a tunnel? Atwood leaves the Handmaid’s story here. Readers can choose for themselves, if they wish, to imagine what happens to Offred next…   
University of Denay, Nunavit Deliberate pun, deny none of it There is an essential truth in Offred’s tale. Even if details cannot be confirmed, Atwood’s novel is fiction. Speculative fiction Warning
“are there any questions?” Ironic, readers left with loads. What happens to Offred? But most importantly could this happen?
Extra quotes added later on  
“The Wall”   “And must have once been plain but handsome’ Horrifies in 2 ways First that it is used to trap and hang Secondly, Spelled with capital W thus personifying it and giving it its own status within the dystopian society, a status which strikes fear into people- much like the Berlin wall which was suppressing people at the time of the novel’s initial publication. The name makes it seem like a talking point among members of society due to the use of the word ‘the’- giving prominence. ‘the Wall’ supports totalitarianism in Gilead as the “Wall” itself is a perfect example of authoritarian and militaristic rule. —- it is a metaphor for the Gilead society in the time before which have now been sculpted into something ugly and oppressive.
“which is marked by a large wooded pork chop hanging from two chains.” Women not allowed to read Gilead has gotten rid of language so the women can only visually see signs. This is because if they can control language, they can control thoughts
‘prayvaganza’   ‘birthmobiles’   ‘particicutions’   The ‘compudoc’ system   Neologisms The blend of new sounding words and very old-fashioned ideas help to erode the sense that the society of Gilead has gone forward in the same way society did before.   Another effect of the fun sounding words like ‘prayvaganza’ and ‘particicution’ is that it disguises the sinister nature of the events.
‘Loaves and Fishes’   ‘Behemoth’ Vocabulary used of religious nature   Loaves and fishes highlighting the teaching of Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. Cars names after creatures in the bible.   The use of biblical language highlights the conventions of the state. Similar to Nazi Germany   Atwood is warning us of what would happen if extremist religious groups and the government would mix.
“I don’t want to be telling this story”   (when talking about her families failed escape and at woman salvagings) Used at 2 distressing moments in the book Believable responses to emotional trauma- reliable narrator   Verb ‘want’ implies that she has a choice in storytelling and a meta-awareness of what she is doing which adds to her authority as a ‘real’ person making her more believable.
Verse from epigraph from genesis on the story of Jacob and his wife Rachel that asks him to bear children for her through their “maid Bilhah” (used by regime and commanders) Religious Zealots Government uses this verse to cover up all horrible deeds such as rape Radical religious beliefs led to the execution of abortion doctors
“like scarecrows” Simile describing the men on the wall suggest that the executions are used as a way of scaring the people of Gilead and controlling them.
Human behaviour ‘Aunt’   ‘cattle-prods’   “her fault, her fault, her fault.” The symbol of an ‘aunt’ suggests a caring and loving women like a nun. Ironically, the aunts aren’t the caring women but the opposite. They go around treating other women harshly, beating them up and carrying weapons. Humans should help each other at times of distress – women vs. women Also make other women against women- Janine and her rape Made to chant in unison against her Terrible behaviour criticised by Atwood

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