Summary and Analysis Chapter 3



Escaping her chaste confinement through word gymnastics and mental excursions, Offred recalls a college dormitory scene, depicting her friendship with Moira. She also remembers a childhood Saturday in a park, where Offred's mother joined a militant feminist gathering organized to burn pornographic magazines. The scene then shifts to Offred's failed attempt to escape to Canada. She recalls being taken into custody and drugged into oblivion, meant to make her forget the abduction of her daughter. Clinging to sanity, Offred tells her story to an invisible audience, even though she knows that no one can hear her desperate narrative.


This brief survey of Offred's suppressed emotional state reminds the reader that a period of violence separates her old life as wife and mother from coercive Handmaid's training at the Red Center and subsequent placement with the Commander's family. Atwood composes loose shreds of mental scenarios to ally the three females whom Offred values and remembers in an effort to hold onto hope: Moira, her college friend, and Offred's strong-willed mother and innocent daughter. The grim photo of the child attests to the fact that little girls, who are invaluable to Gilead in a time of widespread infertility and birth defects, may have been shanghaied into another form of fundamentalist manipulation, as suggested by the child's long white dress, the costume worn by Gilead's virginal Daughters. Offred, awakening to a faceless staff, assumes that she has lost track of time while under the influence of sedatives.