The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood Summary and Analysis Chapter 11 - Night

Summary

The heavy fragrance of summer flowers rises to Offred's bedroom window, where she takes her accustomed seat and gazes out into the night. In the moonlight, she spots Nick. Her thoughts return to her family's failed escape and Luke's killing of the cat, whose prowling and yowls could have given away the family's escape plans. Offred realizes that the past is slipping from her memory, and prays into the darkness, her loneliness driving her to thoughts of suicide.

Analysis

In her moral dilemma of sexual longing, Offred lusts for Nick as he does for her. From Shakespeare's King Lear (V, ii, 9), she rephrases "Ripeness is all" into "Context is all," a rationalization for the physical yearning, which is matched by Nick's mateless desires arising from state mandates that deny men of status lower than Commander the sexual privileges of a Handmaid. More than lust, Offred is driven by loneliness — a desire to telephone someone, to conjure up a reason to go on living.

The parody of the Lord's Prayer, which takes place by an empty garden just as Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, verbalizes Offred's feelings of abandonment and despair. Line by line, she restates the sentiments of this central Christian prayer, used at ceremonies and in private devotion as a balanced expression of Christian needs and hopes. Arising from the metaphors of heaven, hell, daily bread, and forgiveness is the specter of the absent chandelier, the anchor to which Offred's predecessor attached her noose. Conjuring like a litany the recurrent line from a tombstone in Gilead's cemetery, Offred tries to remain In Hope, but suffers such isolation that she alters her parody into a sincere cry for spiritual sustenance. The chapter concludes with a plaintive rhetorical question: "How can I keep on living?"

Glossary

The Fall Adam and Eve's loss of innocence after they disobeyed God and tasted of the Tree of Knowledge.

All alone by the telephone an Irving Berlin duct sung by Grace Moore and Oscar Shaw in the 1924 version of The Music Review.

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Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale can be classified with Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange as




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