The Handmaid's Tale summary

NIGHT Chapter 1
The narrator describes a former gymnasium that now appears to be like a woman’s prison, patrolled by aunts.She thinks about fun times students would enjoy by the students previously. She secretly exchanges names with the other trainee Handmaids.
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SHOPPING Chapter 2
The location shifts to a room in a Victorian house.O describes her red clothes,house layout.She receives tokens from the housekeeper to shop with.She remembers arriving at the Commander’s house,meeting Serena an old gospel singer.
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SHOPPING Chapter 3
Offred remembers arriving at the Commander’s house,meeting Serena who was once a gospel singer.
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SHOPPING Chapter 4
Offred sees nick,the chauffeur,washing the Commander’s car he winks at her and she wonders why.She meets Offglen, her shopping companion, dressed in identical clothing.They use conventional Gilead greetings and cautious small talk.She teases guards.
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SHOPPING Chapter 5
Offred walks through a former university town which is now the capital of Gilead,she used to live there with Luke and child,she yearns for them and her old friend Moira.They see Ofwarren is pregnant,a group of Japanese tourists,westernised clothes
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SHOPPING Chapter 6
They walk and pass old landmarks and pause to stare at the hooded dead bodies of dissidents (doctors executed for performing abortions) hanging on the wall.
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NIGHT Chapter 7
Offred lies alone on her bed,she remembers her rebellious college friend Moira.Her attention moves to earlier childhood memories of her mother,a feminist activist.More painful memories are about her child,she is uncertain if her story will be heard.
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On one of their walks Ofglen uses the words May day.She notices evidence of misery and oppression around her,daily execution,baby’s funeral.When returning she Nick who tries to talk to her.We learn about Serena’s history.Thecommander peers in her rom
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Inside the room she now considers to be hers, she thinks about happier times and her secret affair with Luke before they got married.She remembers finding a secret message left by the unknown handmaid before her.She tries to ask Rita what it means.
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Offred sings in her head Amazing Grace or songs by Elvis.Most music is forbidden in Gilead Sometimes she hears Serena humming.She remembers Moira throwing an underwhore party to sell lingerie.She has a cushion saying Faith,only thing she can read.
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Offred describes her visit to the doctor for her monthly check-up to assess her reproductive fitness. The doctor offers to give her a baby, Offred refuses believing its too dangerous.
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Offred takes a bath and remembers her small daughter that was taken from her. Cora brings Offred some food, and Offred waits for the Commander.
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NAP Chapter 13
Offred describes the boredom of her situation, she remembers back at the Rachel and Leah centre when Moira was brought in by the Aunts, relishing in her spirited resistance against brainwashing sessions, Janine was the perfect female victim
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HOUSEHOLD Chapter 14
The Commander’s household assembles for family prayers.Serena puts the news on as they wait,it’s only state propaganda but we learn Gilead is a war zone,political/religious prisoners and deportations.She thinks about own name,first contact with Nick
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HOUSEHOLD Chapter 15
The Commander arrives,he takes out a Bible and reads to everyone.The Commander reads passages that emphasize childbearing.As he reads, his Wife begins to sob softly.Offred remembers when Moira tried to escape the red centre,her feet were beaten.
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HOUSEHOLD Chapter 16
In the bedroom,Offred lies on back between Serena’s legs.Her skirt is up and her underwear is off.They hold hands,Serena’s rings dig into Offred’s fingers.The Commander has sex with her.Serena orders her to leave,she is supposed to rest for 10 mins
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HOUSEHOLD Chapter 17
In her bedroom, she removes butter from shoe,uses it as lotion for skin. Beauty products are forbidden to the Handmaids. She decides to steal something.She decides to take a daffodil.Wants to press under her mattress to leave it for the next handmaid
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HOUSEHOLD Chapter 17 (continued)
Standing in the sitting room,she senses someones presence.It is Nick. Neither of them are supposed to be downstairs.They kiss she thinks about Luke,Nick whispers that the Commander sent him to find her.He wants to see her in his office tomorrow
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NIGHT Chapter 18
Offred remembers lying in bed with Luke before their daughter was born, she contrasts this memory with her present solitary state.She imagines Luke dead, in prison,made it across boarder.She believes in three scenarios so nothing will surprise her
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 19
She hears the siren of the Birthmobile,the handmaids travel together to attend the birth of Ofwarren’s baby.Whilst travelling she tells us reasons why the birth rate has fallen to dangerous levels and why birth abnormalities are so common.
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 20
While Ofwarren gives birth,the Wife lies in the sitting room as if she is giving birth.The Handmaids watch Janine give birth.Offred remembers the movies they used to show in the red centre and she once saw her mother in one at a feminist rally.
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 21
During Ofwarren’s birth, Offred tries to find news of Moira.The baby is born and names Angela,attention is immediately moved from the handmaid to the Wife.Janine will then be transferred to another family,she won’t be sent to the colonies
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 22
Driving back from the birth, Offred remembers Moira’s escape from the Red Center. She tied Aunt Elizabeth in the furnace room,they exchanged clothing and Moira used her pass walk out the centre.No one has seen Moira or heard from her since then.
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 23
Offred tells Cora about the child,who expresses her hope that they will have a child soon.She sneaks out of her room and meets the Commander in his office.She braces herself for a forced physical advances.She eyes the study walls,covered with books
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BIRTH DAY Chapter 23 (continued)
To her surprise, the Commander merely asks her to play a game of Scrabble. This is forbidden, since any kind of reading is forbidden to women. As she is about to leave, the Commander asks her for a kiss.She does but he wanted her to mean it.
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NIGHT Chapter 24
Offred has an awakened sense of individuality, she gives some details about her age,appearance.Realises the Commander may tempt her into friendship.She sees that she is trapped,says his desire for her “could be a passport,it could be my downfall”
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The chapter opens with a scream and a crash as Cora has found Offred asleep in her closet when bringing up breakfast.She thought Offred killed herself.Offred enjoys walking through Serena’s garden in summer.Begins to enjoy meetings with the Commander
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Offred attends another ceremony. The Commander tries to touch her face, she is afraid of the consequences and warns him she could get transferred or set to the colonies.
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Offred goes shopping with Ofglen,they visit the wall and store called soul scrolls.They confess to each other feelings of dissent and Offred discovers an underground resistance in Gilead.Outside there is a commotion,a man is grabbed and taken.
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Offred thinks about her relationship with the commander,trying to see it how Moira might have we learn that she was a lesbian.She realises there are parallels to her early relationship with Luke where she was also the mistress.
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SOUL SCROLLS Chapter 28 (continued)
Offred describes the fall of the American governement, they were take over by a right-wing group. She tells us about slow changes and censoring. Women were stripped of their economic, political and legal rights.
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During a secret meeting, Offred asks the Commander the meaning of the Latin inscription in her room,The Commander translates it as “don’t let the bastards grind you down,” she guesses the former Handmaid must have learned the phrase from him.
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SOUL SCROLLS Chapter 29 (continued)
She learns the Handmaid hanged herself and realizes he summons her to his office because he wants her life to be bearable.She knows that his guilt is a weapon she can use. Offred asks for knowledge about “what’s going on.”
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NIGHT Chapter 30
Offred stares through her window sees Nick.She remembers the day she and Luke tried to escape from Gilead.They did not pack anything because they did not want to look as if they were leaving permanently.Luke killed pet cat,to not raise suspicion.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 31
Serena tells Offred the Commander may be sterile,she suggests she should secretly sleep with Nick to conceive a child.Serena gives a cigarette,tells her to ask Rita for match and offers to let her a see a photo of her daughter.She is angry at Serena.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 32
Offred thinks about her predecessor and what she could do with the match. The Commander asks what she thinks of Gilead, she cannot give her real opinion,he can sense her unhappiness. “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 33
Offred is taken on another Handmaid’s compulsory outing, the Woman’s prayvaganza to celebrate a mass wedding,she describes it as like a circus or theatrical performance.She sees Janine whos baby was deemed “a shredder”.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 34
Offred remembers a conversation with the Commander he insisted arranged marriages have guaranteed women safety and dignity.After Ofglen whispers that they know she sees the Commander in private.She urges Offred to find out everything she can.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 35
Offred is alone in her room again, she remembers her family’s failed escape attempt. Serena brings her the photo of her child but has to take it away. Offred senses her daughter hardly remembers her.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 36
Offred has a surprise evening out with the Commander,he gives her a skimpy outfit and cheap makeup for her face.She must wear Serena’s blue coatNick drives them,she can’t tell if he approves heractions .He instructs her to say she’s an evening rental
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 37
They finally arrive at a masquerade party at a former hotel called Jezebel’s, where Offred and Luke had affair. It is now a state brothel, Gilead’s sexual underground. She suddenly sees Moira and agrees to meet at the women’s washroom.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 38
Moira tells Offred about her failed escape attempt,she was part of an underground femaleroad,at the final safehouse she was caught.The eyes tortured her,made her watch videos from the Colonies,she is upset Moira has lost her spirit.
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JEZEBEL'S Chapter 39
The Commander takes Offred to a hotel room.She excuses herself to go to bathroom. Moira said that she saw her mother in a colony film.Offred assumed she was dead,believes colonies must of made her mum lose spirit.Offred and him have sex.
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NIGHT Chapter 40
Offred removed her makeup,puts on Handmaid clothes. Serena meets her at midnight to take her to Nick.She tells 2 different stories.1st thick with passion and desire 2nd more accurate,is awkward,full of sadness.Feels she betrayed Luke
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She says her story is almost too painful to bear, but that she needs to go on telling it because it wills her listener into being. Offred says she continues to see Nick at night and tells him her real name.Ofglen wants her to break into Freds office.
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SALVAGING Chapter 42
A women’s Salvaging is held. All the women in the district must attend. Aunt Lydia sits on the stage, supervising the hangings .Aunt Lydia announces that they have decided to discontinue announcing the crimes because it sparks copycat crimes.
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SALVAGING Chapter 42 (continued)
The Handmaids are dismayed; the crimes give them hope by showing them that women can still resist. Three women are hanged, two Handmaids and one Wife.She says Wives get salvaged for only three things: killing a Handmaid, adultery, or attempted escape
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SALVAGING Chapter 43
After the hanging, Aunt Lydia instructs the Handmaids to form a circle.Two Guardians drag a third Guardian to the front,he's been convicted of ****,one of the Handmaids involved was pregnant and lost the baby. Offred feels bloodlust along with crowd
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SALVAGING Chapter 43 (continued)
Handmaids close in on the man, kicking and beating him to a bloody pulp. Ofglen dashes in first and kicks his head several times she whispers that the supposed ****** was part of the underground rebellion, and she wanted to put him out of his misery.
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SALVAGING Chapter 44
After the Salvaging, Offred goes out for a shopping trip.To her dismay, the Handmaid who meets her is not Ofglen. Trying to see if the new woman belongs to the resistance.As they walk Offred says the password “Mayday” into the conversation.
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SALVAGING Chapter 44 (continued)
Ofglen tells her that she should forget such “echoes”Offred realizes that she knows the resistance and doesn’t belong to it. She imagines herself arrested.New Ofglen whispers that the old Ofglen hanged herself when she saw a van coming to arrest her
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SALVAGING Chapter 45
The knowledge that Ofglen hung herself to avoid confessing and endangering her comrades makes Offred feel like she has been defeated and overpowered by Gilead.Serena confronts Offred with evidence from her evening with the Commander.
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NIGHT Chapter 46
Offred hears the siren of a black van coming to her house,Nick enters her room,she wonders whether he is a private eye but he whispers Mayday has come to rescue her and calls her June.Offred leaves the house,escorted by Eyes like a criminal.
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The novel shifts to AD 2195, Gilead is in ruins, previous protagonists are dead.At a conference,chaired by Professor Crescent Moon,we learn Offred’s story has survived and why it was fragmented.It was recorded on cassette tapes and transcribed.
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Professor Pieixoto explains how it has been impossible to identify the true identities of Offred, the Commander, Serena Joy and others, he suggests possible theories.
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SHOPPING Chapter 2


The location shifts to a room in a Victorian house.O describes her red clothes,house layout.She receives tokens from the housekeeper to shop with.She remembers arriving at the Commander’s house,meeting Serena an old gospel singer.

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SHOPPING Chapter 3


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SHOPPING Chapter 4


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SHOPPING Chapter 5


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