A moment of the Past

Having read through the latest parts of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaids Tale, the new relationship that Offred that builds throughout the chapters feel like a moment in the past while currently being in the world of Gilead. Knowing that women are nothing more than tools in Gilead, Offred and the commander begin to build a relationship as people normally would in our time, though not exactly the same, they are at least able to speak to each other as people normally.

In Chapter 23 when Offred is first called into the Commander’s office, at first she has “An inner jeering. But it’s panic. The fact is I’m terrified”(137) and knowing her position, she is naturally terrified knowing that at any point in time she can be sent to the colonies which is their version of hell. But, whats surprising is that instead of calling Offred in to do “that”, the first things that the commander does is treat Offred like a person which isn’t seen anywhere in the novel so far. The commander lets Offred know that “You can sit down” (137) and ” I’d like ou to play a game of Scrabble with me” (138).  Both of these actions are treating Offred not as a handmaid but as a person and not just from anyone, but from the commander who has the most power out of every person in the house. Knowing how the handmaids are, when Offred is brought into this new “situation” its kind of like bringing in a child that is brought into the principals office instead of calling a person for a casual conversation. Well, it is how the handmaids are trained to have that kind of mentality since Offred even though she was expecting “something unspeakable, down all fours perhaps, perversions, whips, mutilations? At the very least some minor sexual manipulation” (155).

As the chapters go on Offred and the Commander begin to have a more casual relationship, a relationship that you would expect friends to have. She would request things that a woman would usually use before Gilead became a thing. You would think that, it’s the commander the “leader” would be more strict and heavily enforce the rules of the country that he is living in, but he’s ignoring those rules behind closed doors when he is with Offred. On page 159 when Offred talks about what she uses as a replacement for lotion and hears the commanders response she thinks “I could have slapped him” (159). If she acted how she was when Offred first arrived to this house, that thought wouldn’t have ever crossed her mind knowing how handmaids are trained. It feels like a casual conversation that two people would have on any day of the week though I don’t think it would usually end up with one smacking the other. The way that Offred speaks to the commander is also more casual than formal knowing their status in Gilead; she speaks to him as if she usually would have if she was talking to a friend. The commander uses the words “You can do it. I know you can” (156) like he’s encouraging a friend even though in the republic of Gilead women have a lower status than men. A relationship that people would usually have before Gilead became a thing, between a commander and his handmaid, a casual relationship that is not supposed to be, begins.


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