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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 17 : Household | Summary



Back in her room, Offred uses the butter she saved to moisturize her hands and face in the hope that she may one day lay claim to her own body again. Through the window, she sees the moon. She longs for Luke and his voice saying her name. She decides to steal something in an effort to control her own actions. She sneaks back to Serena Joy's sitting room and starts to steal a flower petal when Nick suddenly arrives. They kiss passionately. Nick tells her the Commander wants to see her the next day in his office. Confused, she returns to her room.


Offred's impulses to moisturize her skin and to steal something result from a longing to be restored to her former self. Hiding the butter and stealing the flower petal are ways of doing something active to reclaim her identity and enact a small rebellion, rather than passively waiting for others to make decisions for her. She experiences a sense of freedom as she sneaks away from her room. Kissing Nick, too, is a choice she makes for herself. However, this brief flirtation, with the power to choose, is cut immediately short by Nick's message. The Commander is breaking protocol by calling Offred to his office. Again, her fate is in his hands.

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