We continue to learn about the many layers of the Republic of Gilead and Offred’s story as we begin to reach the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. In this chapter, called “Jezebel’s,” we learn about the Commander’s membership of an underground brothel in the city when he takes Offred on a “night out” and exposes her to “the club.” Here, Offred is brought back to the time before Gilead, seeing women wearing revealing outfits and makeup and smoke cigarettes. It’s a significant departure from the oppressive life that she’s been forced to lead during her time as a Handmaid. At the brothel, Offred sees her friend Moira for the first time since Moira escaped the Red Center by stealing Aunt Elizabeth’s outfit. We learn that we was in hiding for several months before being found out near the Canadian border as she was trying to escape. When given the choice between being sent to the Colonies and becoming a prostitute, she tells Offred that the decision was easy. This is the last encounter that Offred has with Moira.
What struck me the most about this section was the part in which Offred recounts Moira’s time on the run from the Gilead authorities. Moira tells Offred about the Underground Femaleroad. The Underground Femaleroad is an obvious reference to the Underground Railroad that was used to help escaped slaves find freedom in the nineteenth century. When discussing the Underground Femaleroad, though, Offred was sure to intentionally leave out the exact methods in which Moira was able to navigate the Underground Femaleroad and potentially escape Gilead because she did not want to compromise the Underground Femaleroad if it was still smuggling women out of Gilead.
This reminded me of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass purposely did not divulge the specifics of his escape from slavery. He knew that his escape was one of the most important parts of his life, and would definitely have been the selling point of his autobiography. However, he instead chose to protect the slaves who were still relying on the Underground Railroad, and he knew that by revealing these secrets he would have compromised the escape of countless other slaves. Offred does the same thing in this section because while it would have been fascinating to hear the nature of Moira’s near escape to freedom, Offred could have jeopardized other women’s escapes by revealing this vital information because her story could have fallen into the wrong hands.