The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 5

The chapter beings with an explicit description of the town, and the changes that have happened since Offred was a child. When the Republic of Gilead first came to be, many saw it as a time where women’s rights were almost better than before. In the pre-Gilead years, women’s rights were not considered, and there was an inherent difference between how men and women lived their lives. Women had to lock their doors at night, forced to endure and ignore catcalls and whenever they went out run the risk of being groped in the street. Times changed, and in the Republic of Gilead, women had freedom from this kind of behavior; something which Aunt Lydia told Offred never to take it for granted. Offred reminisces about her life, and family in the pre-Gilead days; how she often always argued with her husband Luke, arguments ranging from the overuse of plastic bags to and the safety of their child. After shopping, Offred, and Ofglen meet a group of Japanese tourists, wearing clothes that exposed their legs and heels, with an interpreter. They refuse to take photos because handmaids are not allowed to appear immodest.


The chapter captures the lives of women before and after the formation of the Republic of Gilead, showing the different changes in ‘freedom’. In some twisted way there is a positive change in how women are treated in the society. Even though they have not fully attained the day to day freedom that they desire, at least they do not face harassment from their male counterparts. The chapter also presents a contrast between the almost puritan lifestyle of Gilead and modernity. Ofglen and Offred meet a group of Japanese tourists who are wearing high heels, have polished nails, and also have exposed legs, all things that marvel the handmaids. It is clear that Gilead’s society had not embraced modernity. The fact that handmaids were required to be the picture of modesty at all times meant they were unable to explore their bodies and personalities. This is compounded when they were asked by the Japanese tourists if they were happy, only Offred answers in a murmur whereas Ofglen remains silent.

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