A Handmaid’s Tale
| Important Quotes
This is a compilation of a list of various important quotes from the novel “A Handmaid’s Tale”. It also includes a brief explanation of the importance of each quote for a better familiarization and understanding of the lines in the novel. The compiled notes have been formatted in the tightest possible way to save paper, ink, space and money.
| Compiled by Khanh Nguyen
Khanh’s Guide to Happily Ever After ©
Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.
Explanation for Quotation 1 >>
This quotation is from the end of Chapter 6. Offred and Ofglen are standing by the Wall, looking at the bodies of people who have been hanged by Gilead. The sight horrifies Offred, but she strains to push aside her repugnance and substitute an emotional “blankness.” As she represses her natural revulsion, she remembers Aunt Lydia’s words about how life in Gilead will “become ordinary.” Aunt Lydia’s statement reflects the power of a totalitarian state like Gilead to transform a natural human response such as revulsion at an execution into “blankness,” to transform horror into normalcy. Aunt Lydia’s words suggest that Gilead succeeds not by making people believe that its ways are right, but by making people forget what a different world could be like. Torture and tyranny become accepted because they are “what you are used to.”
I would like to believe this is a story I’m 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.
Explanation for Quotation 2 >>
This quotation, from the end of Chapter 7, reflects the connection between Offred’s story, her readers, her lost family, and her inner state. These words suggest that Offred is not recounting events from afar, looking back on an earlier period in her life. Rather, she is describing the horror of Gilead as she experiences it from day to day. For Offred, the act of telling her story becomes a rebellion against her society. Gilead seeks to silence women, but Offred speaks out, even if it is only to an imaginary reader, to Luke, or to God. Gilead denies women control over their own lives, but Offred’s creation of a story gives her, as she puts it, “control over the ending.” Most important, Offred’s creation of a narrative gives her hope for the future, a sense that “there will be an ending . . . and real life will come after it.” She can hope that someone will hear her story, or that she will tell it to Luke someday. Offred has found the only avenue of rebellion available in her totalitarian society: she denies Gilead control over her inner life.
I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.
Explanation for Quotation 3 >>
This passage is from Chapter 13, when Offred sits in the bath, naked, and contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she thinks about it now. Before, her body was an instrument, an extension of her self; now, her self no longer matters, and her body is only important because of its “central object,” her womb, which can bear a child. Offred’s musings show that she has internalized Gilead’s attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as objects important only for the children that they can bear. Women’s wombs are a “national resource,” the state insists, using language...
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