As Rachel mentions in her blogpost below, this section of The Handmaid’s Tale contains a great deal of information. The reading begins with a discussion of time. Offred longs for a hobby such as embroidery, weaving, or knitting to occupy herself. She recalls pieces of artwork that she’s seen that feature women waiting for something; pieces of art that convey a sense of boredom. Offred relates to these pieces of art as she too now waits for a man to put her to “use” (69). It was disheartening to see how easily Offred could connect with those paintings and animals such as caged pigs and lab rats. Moreover, Offred thinks back to her time in the gymnasium when the Aunts gave them time to rest and considers that maybe they were on some kind of drug. I was particularly struck by this remark; however, I think I agree with Offred’s commentary that “it was better to be lethargic. You could tell yourself you were saving up your strength” (70). By using this mentality, the Handmaids were able to cope as best as they could with their surroundings.
A blog post about this section would be incomplete without at least mentioning the horrific scene as recounted in Chapter 16. This scene explicitly reveals the true duty of a Handmaid, to serve as merely a body: a body capable of carrying a child. Serena Joy’s quick dismissal of Offred reveals her desire to assert her dominance within the social hierarchy rather than increase the chances of conception.
Chapter 17 describes three distinct acts of rebellion. First, Offred uses the butter (that she previously hid in her shoe) as lotion. Second, Offred sneaks out of her room to steal something. As Offred describes on page 97, she is “doing something, on [her] own.” These acts serve as glimpses of freedom in her very restricted life. Furthermore, these acts speak to the extent of her oppression, in the sense that she must use butter and leaving her bedroom in the middle of the night in order to feel somewhat liberated. Third, Offred and Nick’s encounter in the sitting room. Offred notes that “it’s so good, to be touched by someone, to be felt so greedily, to feel so greedy” (99). Like Rachel, I am curious to see the outcome of this scene and why The Commander is calling Offred into his office.