'The Handmaid's Tale' Quotations Explained

  • Created by: OMAM
  • Created on: 10-11-17 10:22

"I once had a garden"

II Shopping - Chapter 3

Offred's narrative

The garden is a metaphor for childrearing: Offred once had a garden, meaning she once had a child.

Furthermore, as ‘The Commander's Wife directs’ people around the garden, this parallels how the wives don’t care look after or produce their own children. Instead, the Handmaids and the Marthas care for the child.

This links to the quotation ‘bouquet of flowers’ (chapter 21) after Ofwaren has given birth. Here, the Commander's Wife treats the baby like a prize, but she hasn't done anything to deserve her 'prize'. She was simply blessed with a higher social status than the majority of the women in Gilead.

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"As for my husband, she said, he's just that. My h

II Shopping - Chapter 3

The Commander's Wife

The repetition of the possessive pronoun 'my' emphasising her authority and ownership over her husband. Arguably, Serena Joy only has power and authority inside the house, as she is able to control Offred as well as her husband, to an extent.

Furthermore, Serena Joy is adopting a quotation from the marriage cermony in an attempt to remind Offred of her position in the house. Also, the fact that she is using the words of Gilead suggests that she is also using the power and authority of the society to further intimidate Offred.

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II Shopping - Chapter 3

“Try to think of it from their point of view she said, her hands clasped and wrung together, her nervous pleading smile. It isn't easy for them.”

Not only do the Handmaids have to endure the suffering and pressure of producing a child for the Commanders and their wives, but they are encouraged to pity the wives who detest the Handmaids and give them a hard time

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II Shopping - Chapter 6

“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.”

Gilead’s way of distancing people from their previous life

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III Night - Chapter 7

“I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off.”

Shows Offred’s defiance and willingness to escape from this society

Hope – Offred isn’t giving up, she will ‘pick up where [she] left off’ in her previous life

Telling a story is her way of coping – gives her a purpose

Offred rebelling against Gilead, as the society seeks to silence women and take away their control over their lives

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IV Waiting Room - Chapter 8

“It's not the husbands you have to watch out for, said Aunt Lydia, it's the Wives. You should always try to imagine what they must be feeling. Of course they will resent you. It is only natural. Try to feel for them.”

Significantly, "Wives" is capitalized while "husbands" is not. Husbands have other jobs, but a Wife has only one role – to be a wife. Marriage grants her a certain honorific status.

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IV Waiting Room - Chapter 11

“Give me children, or else I die. There's more than one meaning to it”

Can be viewed as an ambigious quotation...

-If she doesn’t produce she will be a childless, anguished woman

-If she doesn’t produce she will be sentenced to death

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IV Waiting Room - Chapter 11

“At neck level there’s another sheet, suspended from the ceiling, it intersects me and the doctor will never see my face. He deals with a torso only”

Women being reduced to just their bodies

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VIII Birth Day - Chapter 21

“She’s like a doll”


Useful for a short period, but thrown out when no longer needed (moved to a different commander)

Child-like imagery

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VIII Birth Day - Chapter 21

“We pay no attention to the Wife … our eyes are on Janine”

Sisterhood – looking out for each other

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VIII Birth Day - Chapter 21

“The Commander’s Wife looks at the baby like a bouquet of flowers

Something given as a prize/reward - She has not done anything to deserve it

Link to the gardens – associated with fertility

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"We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the bed

I Night


Links to the theme of rebellion, as they find ways to subvert the rules

This quotation demonstrates the community of the Handmaids, showing how they can leaon on each other, helping them to get through the tough situations they are subjected to within the society.

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"Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used t

II Shopping - Chapter 6

Aunt Lydia (Offred's memory)

The Aunts are 'role models' to the Handmaids, placed in the RED centre by Gilead to guide and advise the Handmaids.

This links to when Offred and Ofglen are standing by The Wall. Offred struggles to push aside her repugnance and substitute an emotional 'blankness', remembering her training at the RED centre. The emotional blankness implies that the Gilead way of life is starting to 'become ordinary' to Offred.

Aunt Lydia's statements reflects the power of Gilead, as it is attempting to transform a natural human response of shock and disbelief into a blank, emotionless reaction; horror into normality

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