The Handmaid's Tale Key Quotes: Reading, Writing & Storytelling

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  • The Handmaid's Tale Key Quotes: Reading, Writing & Storytelling
  • "This isn't a story I'm telling.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 is in any case forbidden. But if it's a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don't tell a story only to yourself. There's always someone else."
    • Chapter 7. Here we see 1) the risk in Offred sharing her story 2) the freedom and rebellion she does in doing so even if internally 3) the restrictive nature of Gilead in not allowing women to write.
  • "I am trying not to tell stories, or at any rate not this one."
    • Chapter 9. There's a slippage here between fiction and reality. How much of Offred's story is true?
  • [in analysing the etymology of 'chair'] "These are the kinds of litanies I use, to compose myself."
    • Chapter 19. The narrator is often thinking about words and their meanings, origins, uses, etc. Even though she's not allowed to read anymore, the narrator clings to words like lifejackets. The words and their various meanings remind her of who she is.
  • "I've filled it out for her as much as I can: we didn't have much time so she just gave the outlines. It's a way of keeping her alive."
    • Chapter 38. Storytelling, even if it is reconstructed, is a means of survival not only for Offred but the memories of those who meant something to her. Is she a reliable narrator?
  • [about Moira] "I'd like her to end with something daring and spectacular, some outrage."
    • Chapter 38. The narrator is using imagination as wish fulfillment here.
  • "I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light."
    • Chapter 41. We trust Offred as a narrator more as laments the harsh reality of her story. The tragedies of Gilead can not really be altered as 'reconstructed' as they may be.
  • [about the Salvaging] "I don't want to be telling this story."
    • Chapter 42. Why does Offred share this story? 1) to portray the brutality of the Republic. 2) although she hates the execution, she can't escape it and in the same way the execution cannot escape her narration.

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