Offred compares past and present

In The Handmaid’s Tale, Parts III-VIII, Offred the Handmaid spends a lot of time remembering parts of her past. She creates more images of her life both before and after the change of society. She has many memories of her friend Moira, who she reminisces a lot about. Moira used to be a college classmate friend of Offred’s, and she also became a Handmaid along with Offred. Offred reminisces of her time in college, before the societal change: “I had a paper due the next day. What was it? Psychology, English, economics. We studied things like that, then” (37-38). Another important memory of hers was a time at or right after the societal turning point, when people were burning pornographic magazines. “There were some men, too, among the women, and the books were magazines. They must have poured gasoline, because the flames shot high, and then they began dumping the magazines, from boxes, not too many at a time. Some of them were chanting; onlookers gathered. Their faces were happy, ecstatic almost” (38). The most revealing and surprising thing about this excerpt is that the women (who were the majority in the crowd) were very happy with burning the magazines, which implied that they were happy with the change in society.

Later on in the same chapter, Offred has an internal monologue in which she thinks about her new life as a Handmaid: “I would like to believe this is a story I am telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then  there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling. It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden “(39). This shows that Offred is very depressed with her life as a Handmaid, and she wishes that she is able to change her life at will, as she says that ‘if it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending’. She further emphasizes her lack of freedom when she describes that she has ‘nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden’.

In Chapter 22, Offred pieces together the accounts of Aunt Lydia and Janine to tell the story of Moira’s rebellion and escape from being a Handmaid. It is revealed that Moira had used an improvised weapon to steal the clothes and cattle prod of Aunt Elizabeth, and fled under the disguise of an Aunt. This story spread throughout the ranks of Handmaids: “Moira was out there somewhere…Moira had power now, she’d been set loose, she’d set herself loose. She was now a loose woman. I think we found this frightening. Moira was like an elevator with open sides. She made us feel dizzy…Moira was our fantasy” (133). This story had given hope to all of the Handmaids, and they now knew that escape was possible. Offred fantasized of pulling off her own escape attempt, but was it was put off when the Commander showed signs of affection towards her.

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