The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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. The doctor is inappropriate during the exam, fondling her breasts before announcing that she is healthy. The doctor also shares some astonishing news, that most of the Commanders are sterile. This news shocks Offred, as Gilead’s laws dictate that only a woman can have reproductive issues (Atwood, 1985). Also, claiming a man was sterile was illegal, and punishable. The doctor then makes his intensions clear, touching Offred sexually and offering to ‘help’ her conceive a child. Offred refuses but is frightened that the doctor may falsify the report, and this will make her be sent to the colony of ‘Unwomen.’


The chapter portrays the plight of women in Gilead, and the situations they have to undergo to maintain societies norms. The predatory nature of the doctor is seen in this case, and he goes on to point out that other women have yielded to him. Therefore, Atwood aims to showcase how women are treated as sex objects, simply controlled by men. The doctor messes with the psychology of the women and drives them into having sex reluctantly to avoid facing punishment, as women are perceived as the inferior sex over men when it comes to the issue of sterility. Women are branded as fertile, or barren but if the man has the problem, society refuses to acknowledge it.

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