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Ch. X-XI

This section of The Handmaid’s Tale delves deeper into the changing relationship between Offred and the Commander. Offred and the Commander’s relationship continues to grow and become less professional and more casual. The Commander loves to indulge Offred’s questions for him as he enjoys her childlike curiosity and acts as a paternal figure in a way. Offred notes that their relationship gives her a sense of worth that she had been lacking before. She says that, “to him I’m no longer merely a usable body. To him I’m not just a boat with no cargo, a chalice with no wine in it, an over — to be crude — minutes the bun. To him I am not merely empty.”(163) Offred had previously felt she had little value to offer to society. Her worth as a human in this society was completely dependent on her ability to conceive, and without a child, she had little to offer anyone. Spending time with the Commander, someone who enjoys her company and presence, finally gives here a feeling of self-worth that she had been missing. Even their interactions in the Ceremony becomes less robotic as they begin to have a connection. These small things give Offred a small feeling of normalcy in this newly changed world. 

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  1. David Ataide David Ataide

    I like how you addressed the change in the vibe of the story once Offred began interacting with the Commander. Throughout the story so far, the tone has been very robotic and dry, but the very old-world style interactions with the Commander bring out the human qualities that have been suppressed by Gilead. Things as simple as playing a game of Scrabble, and the curiosity about what the Latin phrase means in Offred’s room show represent the happier vibe.

  2. Nicolette Romley Nicolette Romley

    Although things seem to be looking up for Offred because of her progressing relationship with The Commander, is still worry that she is interpreting the situation differently than she should be. The Commander may not see Offred in the light that she thinks and she needs to be careful of overstepping any boundaries and of letting her guard down too much in front of a man that can have her hanged in a split second.

  3. Katherine Fell Katherine Fell

    While I agree with you that I enjoyed seeing the changes in tone and seeing positive interactions with the Commander, I also felt as though the flashbacks have gotten more emotional as well. I felt so much more connected to her when she talked about the horrible reality of losing her job and access to her money after the new government took over. Now that we are seeing Offred soften, we are opening very deep wounds.

  4. Alexander Seeley Alexander Seeley

    Yes! Finally a little bit of happiness amidst all the pain and suffering which always exist in any society. I am glad that we are able to see some happiness, even if it isn’t complete or lasting existing in this story which seems to me to be overly depressive and dystopian.

    • Sara Messervey Sara Messervey

      To perceive the commander positively because he is initially kind in a paternalistic and self-congratulating way to her is to have a concept of ethics that is too limited and misses the bigger picture. He is an active agent (one of the literal creators) of the dystopia we are in who forces her into sexual slavery. This is not a cutesy, happy romantic love story. This man is a monster and by engaging with him, Offred puts herself in more danger–but of course, she has no choice. Both because of her boredom/lack of other options and the power he has over her. Please don’t forget that.

  5. Sara Messervey Sara Messervey

    I hate the idea of Offred being so deprived of anything to do that the Commander is it for her. He is the most human contact she has had, and it is under such conditions that she has absolutely no power in the situation. He is friendly now, but the situation is bound to get worse.

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