The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 32

The chapter commences with Offred asking for a matchstick from Rita, who is merely concerned with what she will do with it. Rita eventually gives her the matchstick but warns her about doing anything that could cause a fire. As she settles in her room, Offred thinks about saving the cigarette she had been given and using the matchstick to burn down the house. She perceives this as a vital exit plan which is swift and straightforward. Offred’s thoughts then drift into the meeting she had with the Commander the previous night. While drunk, the Commander is vulnerable and becomes very open with Offred. During that moment, the Commander points out that before Gilead, men were becoming desensitized any emotional feelings when it came to women as through porn and prostitution, sexual gratification was so easily attainable. The Commander is interested to find out what Offred thinks, and constantly asks for her opinion; this being a very strange experience for Offred considering how dismissive the Gilead is of women’s opinions.


The author showcases a different side to the Commander in this chapter, a vulnerable side. From the Commander’s conversation with Offred, we find out about his uncertainty about the current society, becoming very intimate with Offred, talking about how his interest in sex is dwindling. Instead, he is yearning for real affection, something which they are unable to find with the set standards and rules in the society. Through this conversation, the reader learns that men are aware of everything going on and the lack of morals involved but they are afraid to admit, and thus they hide under varying excuses and ideologies. The author intentionally introduces an element of suspense because despite being pressed, Offred never gives a definite answer to the Commanders questions and certainly doesn’t reveal her true opinions. 

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