The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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 piece of butter which she initially hid after dinner and finds it half-melted due to being in her shoe. She uses the butter to oil her face and body, because lotions, and creams were not allowed. As a result of the events that happened, she is unable to sleep, and thus she opts to go downstairs to take a daffodil which she planned to press it under the mattress for the next handmaid in the room. While in the living room she senses the presence of another person, and she finds out its Nick. They are both at fault because none of them is allowed to be downstairs (Atwood, 1985). Without speaking, they kiss, and suddenly she is overcome with an urge to have sex with him, but thoughts of Luke come rushing through her mind. In addition, she understands that having sex is dangerous. Thus, they separate, and Nick tells her that the commander wants to see her in his office tomorrow.


From the analysis of the chapter, although romance doesn’t exist in Gilead, there is still sexual attraction. From all previous depictions of Nick, Offred never found him attractive, but at that time she felt so attracted and attached to him that she felt like having sex with him. This shows that the society has merely turned sex into a reproduction activity, and nothing more. In addition, sexual tension in this case is completely contrary to the sex which she previously had with the Commander.

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