The Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Chapter 8

Offred and Olfgen return from the shops and see three new bodies, executed at the Wall. There is a priest and two other men, executed for being homosexuals. As they walk away, they talk about the balmy weather and reminisce about days gone by.

Later on in their journey, they meet econowives participating in a funeral procession, one of them holding a dead fetus inside a jar. While Offred and Ofglen try and show compassion to the women, they are met with rude gestures, the econowives disliking the handmaids inherently. After parting ways with Ofglen, she once again comes across Nick, once again washing the Commanders car, who tries to talk to her, but she remembers that Aunt Lydia told her that men were created differently, and she is not supposed to talk to them. She also sees Serena Joy sitting in the garden and remembers how Serena used to give big speeches, advocating that a woman’s place is in the home. Now Serena Joy is effectively retired at home, but doesn’t look better for it, her face sunken and sallow. She tries to make eye contact and emphasize with the Commanders wife, but Serena does not even look her direction. At home she sees the Commander standing next to her room and feels afraid that he is breaking the norm. It is something that he has never done before.


When the econowives in the funeral procession show hatred to Offred and Ofglen, it shows that the three women are not happy with their situation (as econowives) and are implicitly blaming other well-off women for it. The hatred and division among women is also seen when Serena Joy fails to even comprehend Offred, in spite of the protagonist’s attempts to empathize with her situation. Gender conflict is also portrayed when Nick tries once again to talk to Offred but remembers Aunt Lydia’s advice, telling her that she should not speak to men at all. It is also not normal for the Commander to be near Offred’s room, something that gives her much food for thought.

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