The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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 survive in her current position forever and thus needs an exit strategy. An exit strategy that will enable her to find a way to save others like her. As she begins to drift to sleep, she is awakened by Cora who comes to her with the dinner tray, and they start a conversation about Janine’s (Offwarren) daughter, and how beautiful she looks. Cora is optimistic that Offred will also have a baby soon. Later on, Offred follows Nick’s previous instructions and sneaks to the Commander’s study room where she is mesmerized by the vast number of books on display. The Commander asks her to play a game of Scrabble; something that Offred knows is as illegal as having drugs. Despite enjoying playing the game, she knows that if Serena found her, the consequences would be dire with her branded an Unwoman.


From this chapter we can see that illiteracy was a major issue embedded in women. The society did not condone any acts of women reading, and thus the exchange in the study room was completely illegal. The author aims to convey that these were deliberate actions by Gilead’s authorities, designed to weaken women’s fight for freedom. Without knowledge; women are unable to form a united front, and champion their rights. At the same time, the author reinforces her the concept of women having no power over their own. Offred’s position in the Commander’s office was illegal, but she is supposed to obey all the commands of the man of the house. On the other hand, if Serena found out about the visit she was at liberty to brand her an Unwoman and send her away to the colonies.

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