The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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 during the grand occasion. Offred soon drifts to her thoughts where remembers Aunt Lydia’s words in the Red Centre, and how they were shown pornographic videos in the Domestic Science Room. Aunt Lydia always pushed the girls’ limits to show them how their lives as handmaids would be preferable to the alternatives, alluding to the situations in the movies. Lydia also showed videos of feminist rallies, with the volume turned down, at it as this point that Offred recognizes her mother as being in one of the crowds. Offred remembers how she always quarreled with her mother because she was a single mother and constantly pushed and fought for the feminist voice. She had made a lot of sacrifices, and it is due to this that Offred regrets the lack of support she showed her mother, something that leads her to start to understand the importance of amplifying the feminist voice.


The chapter affirms the role of women during the birth phase. Society understood that women are the ones who should be involved in the entire process, and thus during Janine’s delivery, the Commander was nowhere to be seen. The handmaids were there assisting the birthmaids. The showcasing of the erotic film backfires from Lydia’s original intentions as it awakens the thoughts, and the fight for women’s empowerment. Atwood seeks to spark the conversation of how women are treated, and hugely unappreciated (Atwood, 1985). This advocating for an increasingly heard feminist voice can be seen when Aunt Lydia shows Offred the video of her mother engaging in a feminist protest. Therefore, considering her current condition as a handmaid, Offred feels propelled to enhance the fight for women’s empowerment.

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