The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 33

The chapter begins with the description of a cloudy afternoon in which Ofglen and Offred decide to attend a “Prayavaganza.” The event is attended by other women in the district, and it is held in the old university building. There are different sub-divisions in the event, based on class, the wives sit on one section, there is another area for the econowives, and the handmaids are segregated in an area which has been marked by ropes. In the Prayavaganza, the handmaids are made to kneel, and Ofglen tells Offred that they should sit at the back where they will be able to talk without being caught. The two women see Janine enter the room, Ofglen elbows Offred and informs her that she gave birth to a deformed child, a child whom she conceived with the doctor. As a result of this, Janine has been sent to a new family (Atwood, 1985). After learning the new information, Offred remembers an experience she had with Janine at the Red Center. Janine had seemingly taken leave of reality and was whispering to herself. Moira had to slap her so that she could come back to her senses. As a result of this, Offred is filled with fear, thinking that the same kind of fate could await her if she proceeds with Serena’s plan.


The chapter exhaustively affirms the hypocrisy in religious institutions. The author notes that the district understood the importance of God, but the same ‘Christian’ thoughts of equality and acceptance are not reflected in the arrangement of the church. The wives sat in their section, the econowives are based in another area, whereas a rope divided the handmaids from the rest of the congregation. This implies that they were viewed as a lesser human or at the least as a ‘dirty’ individual. We can also see that despite the consequences, the society is still filled with individuals who like gossiping about other people. Offred and Ofglen were in church, but Ofglen couldn’t wait to share the information that Janine gave birth to a ‘Shredder’ after having a miscarriage in the initial pregnancy, something she had learnt by eavesdropping on a group of wives.

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