The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood

by contributor

Jack Shields

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Chapter Summaries
Timeline
Chapter Summaries Table
Chapter Summary
Chapter 1

This chapter begins with Offred, whose name is not disclosed at first, narrating the state of the old gymnasiums that they are forced to sleep in, ...

Chapter 2

The second chapter begins with a change of scene, where Offred is now living in a different room which is furnished, and decorated in a feminine st...

Chapter 3

On her way to the shops, she passes through the Commander’s wife’s garden, and she begins to think about a garden she had before Gilead, and th...

Chapter 4

The chapter begins with Offred leaving the house and describes vividly everything that she experiences. Before reaching the gate, she notices Nick,...

Chapter 5

The chapter beings with an explicit description of the town, and the changes that have happened since Offred was a child. When the Republic of Gile...

Chapter 6

The chapter begins by Ofglen suggesting they go home via a different, longer route instead of going straight home. It is at this moment that Ofglen...

Chapter 7

Offred opens the chapter thinking that the night is hers to do whatever she wants, as long as she does not disturb anyone and as such she decides t...

Chapter 8

Offred and Olfgen return from the shops and see three new bodies, executed at the Wall. There is a priest and two other men, executed for being hom...

Chapter 9

Chapter Nine begins with Offred remembering the times she used to meet Luke in hotel rooms when they first met, having an affair. She thinks about ...

Chapter 10

The excerpt begins with Offred singing Amazing Grace, a song now banned due to its message of freedom. We learn that this and other songs like this...

Chapter 11

The section starts with Offred sharing information about the monthly doctor’s appointment, an appointment to which she is escorted by a Guardian....

Chapter 12

The chapter is based around one of Offred’s bathing days, again something that is monitored and controlled with Cora waiting for her at the door....

Chapter 13

Offred is bored after dinner and tries to find something that could keep her occupied, and at that moment she remembers paintings of women in harem...

Chapter 14

At the beginning of this chapter, a bell has summoned the members of the household, including the Commander, Serena, Offred, Nick, Cora, and Rita, ...

Chapter 15

The commander arrives home and takes a bible from a locked box before sitting down on his chair, a chair always reserved for him. The Commander the...

Chapter 16

The chapter begins by the author affirming that the procreating ceremony continues, and the audience is immediately taken to the bedroom where Sere...

Chapter 17

The chapter begins when Offred arrives in her room after the ceremony, where she removes her clothes, and puts on her night gown. She looks for the...

Chapter 18

Offred returns to the room still puzzled and trembling due to the situation which that she had just encountered. She is very disturbed and at the s...

Chapter 19

The chapter captures Offred’s dreams. She has various dreams of things that would normally make her happy, but that joy is cut short with the sel...

Chapter 20

After Janine gives birth, the handmaids are provided milk and sandwiches whereas the wives are able to refresh themselves with wine and oranges dur...

Chapter 21

The room where Janine is expected to give birth is very crowded, and noisy. Offred feels disturbed with the situation because she is mostly subject...

Chapter 22

The chapter begins with Offred’s return Offred from the Birthmobile. She is exhausted and too tired to do anything drags herself and lies down th...

Chapter 23

The chapter commences with Offred lying in her bed, thinking of a way to escape, just like Moira. In her mind, she is aware that she will not survi...

Chapter 24

Offred returns to her room and does not feel the same in her new clothes claiming that she cannot even think without her clothes on. She is mesmeri...

Chapter 25

It is morning, and Offred is woken up by screams, and a loud crash. Offred had fallen asleep in the closet and had startled Cora so much that she d...

Chapter 26

The next conceiving ceremony is awkward for Offred, where before she simply tired to detach from the actions that were happening, now she is all to...

Chapter 27

The chapter begins with one of many between Ofglen and Offred. The two women walk and talk as they observe their setting. They note that there are ...

Chapter 28

In this chapter, Offred notes that Moira is a lesbian, and she does not like Luke, Offred’s boyfriend. Moira had accused Offred of having a relat...

Chapter 29

The chapter begins with Offred once again in the Commander’s office. From her description of the scene, she is relaxed and at ease, along with th...

Chapter 30

In this chapter Offred sees Nick, outside in the dark as she is about to close the window, and a sudden rush of sexual desire and chemistry is exch...

Chapter 31

We see Offred pointing out that she has always wished that one day she would wake up and find herself in her own house and things back to normal. S...

Chapter 32

The chapter commences with Offred asking for a matchstick from Rita, who is merely concerned with what she will do with it. Rita eventually gives h...

Chapter 33

The chapter begins with the description of a cloudy afternoon in which Ofglen and Offred decide to attend a “Prayavaganza.” The event is attend...

Chapter 34

The events of the chapter remain in the courtyard which is now packed to capacity. A Commander comes in and informs the crowd that it is Thanksgivi...

Chapter 35

Offred continues to think how she tried to escape over the Canadian border with her daughter and Luke. When they reached the border, they handed ov...

Chapter 36

Offred walks into the Commanders room and is startled to find him drunk. She engages in a conversation with him during which she tries to estimate ...

Chapter 37

Offred and the Commander walk into a hotel which Offred quickly recognizes as the same one Luke and she had used during the early days of their rel...

Chapter 38

Offred goes to the washrooms and is ushered by an Aunt. She does not immediately find Moira and is unsure whether it is a good idea to ask about he...

Chapter 39

The chapter begins with the Commander bringing Offred to a hotel room at Jezebel’s (Atwood, 2004).  As she uses the bathroom, she remembers a co...

Chapter 40

Later during the night, it gets hot, and muggy, and Offred puts on her Handmaid’s clothes as she lays waiting in her room. She had planned with S...

Chapter 41

Offred apologizes to the reader for the way she is telling her story, feeling that it is painful, and disjointed. She wishes that it made her seem ...

Chapter 42

The chapter begins with a bell ringing, Offred is in a line, walking in pairs on their way to a ‘Salvaging’. They walk past the Angels and ente...

Chapter 43

Almost as soon as the execution ends, Aunt Lydia gathers all of the handmaids in a circle as the other women watch (Atwood, 2004). She explains to ...

Chapter 44

After Offred had taken a reasonable lunch, she leaves the house, passes by Nick, and then pauses at the corner to wait for Ofglen (Atwood, 2004). H...

Chapter 45

For the most part Offred is relieved that Ofglen took her own life rather than being tortured, meaning her secrets were also safe (Atwood, 2004). H...

Chapter 46

Offred waits in her room as night falls, unsure of what her punishment will be (Atwood, 2004). She starts imagining how she could set the whole hou...

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