The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 39

The chapter begins with the Commander bringing Offred to a hotel room at Jezebel’s (Atwood, 2004).  As she uses the bathroom, she remembers a conversation she had had with Moira. Moira had told her that she had seen her mother, news that disturbs Offred as she had presumed that her mother was dead. According to Moira, she saw Offred’s mother in a movie depicting life in the Colonies. Offred initially feels grateful and some form of hope, however, Moira tells her that her mother would be better off dead. Offred tries to remember the last time she had seen her mother, nonetheless, all she can remember is casual meetings at her apartment and nothing of substance. As she reenters the hotel room, the Commander is waiting for her in bed, Offred seems to comprehend her surroundings at this point, realizing how garish her outfit is. She joins the Commander in bed but is unenthusiastic, feeling pity for the man, faking satisfaction and arousal.


Offred’s mother appears several times in the book in various chapters, which all depict her as an important enemy to Gilead. Offred had remembered a time in the regimes early days when she had found her mother’s apartment empty ransacked. Naively she had wanted to phone the police, but it seems like due to her feminist background, Offred’s mother was singled out and sent to the Colonies. In their previous encounters, Offred had often enjoyed spending time with the Commander. However, when they begin having sex, Offred’s positivity is gone, and she feels pity for him, even having to fake being aroused.

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