The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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. There is no mirror, razor blade, lock of on the door, or anything that could be used to kill herself with. She points out that she is ashamed of her nakedness and remains very uneasy throughout the entire process (Atwood, 1985). Still, in the bathtub, she conjures up a memory of her daughter, specifically a time when her child was almost taken in a supermarket. When the child was 5, she was taken by the Gilead authorities and Offred has not seen her since, preferring to think of her as being dead already as the faint glimmer of hope is too painful to comprehend. This makes her remember Aunt Lydia’s words that woman should learn to cultivate poverty of the spirit. Cora soon calls her impatiently out of the bath to have dinner. Handmaids are not allowed to keep food, but she goes ahead to hide a piece of butter in her shoe.


The chapter shares the notion of emotional neglect which is propelled by men in society. The statement implies that men set up rules and regulations which bring sorrow, and emptiness in the life of women. For instance, it is not clear whose mistake it was that Offred’s child was almost kidnapped, but the authorities determined that it was through some form of neglect and then took the child. After finishing her food, Offred thinks of the Commander and Serena and the freedom she must have dining in their private quarters, despite potentially being emotionally neglected. Offred’s rebellious nature is again seen when she chooses to hide the piece of butter in her shoe knowing very well it is an illegal act.

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