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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 18 : Night | Summary



After her encounter with Nick, Offred recalls being in bed with Luke. In the memory, she is pregnant and can feel the baby kicking. Back in the present, she longs to touch another person and to be touched. Next she describes three possible fates for Luke: he is dead, he is in prison, or he has successfully escaped. The idea that Luke may have escaped takes hold of her imagination, and she envisions receiving a secret message from him and escaping together. She knows that these three endings to Luke's story cannot all be true, but for her, somehow, they are: "This contradictory way of believing seems to me, right now, the only way I can believe anything."


As she describes her longing for connection, Offred compares herself to "a room where things once happened and now nothing does." In many ways, Offred has become a passive actor within the rooms of her life: she waits in her bedroom, and she has sex in the Commander's bedroom. As in the previous chapter, she laments this lack of action on her part. While in the previous chapter she combats passivity with action—moisturizing with butter and stealing a flower—she uses her imagination in this chapter to act by connecting with Luke through the possible endings to his story.

As Offred struggles between her desire for Nick and her feeling of loyalty toward Luke, she makes a distinction between sex and love, noting that it is love that she has been denied and love that she needs.

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