The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 25 : Soul Scrolls | Summary

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Summary

This chapter is the first of a series that fall under the section heading "Soul Scrolls." Soul Scrolls is a store in Gilead that sells prayers.

Offred, who falls asleep on the floor, is wakened by Cora's scream and the sound of the breakfast tray crashing to the floor. Cora suspects that Offred is dead. The two unify for a moment as they discuss a possible baby and decide not to tell anyone about the lost breakfast.

Time passes via the flowers and other plants that grow near the Commander's home: tulips, irises, bleeding hearts, peonies, a willow tree, and green grass. Offred describes the ongoing arrangement she makes with the Commander: She visits him secretly a few times a week based on clues from Nick about when to go, and they play Scrabble. Unable to give voice to his desires, the Commander gives her small gifts, such as the chance to read a Vogue magazine or a bottle of hand lotion. He complains that he and Serena Joy have grown apart.

Analysis

The Vogue magazine the Commander offers Offred, with its "endless series of possibilities," provides a metaphor for the effect this arrangement has on Offred's life. She has greater and greater access to forbidden items, such as reading materials. She gains the courage to ask for specific items for the purposes of caring for herself, breaking the rules, and exploring her newfound power with the Commander. Additionally, for the first time, she has a sense of more than one possible path in her future.

Offred's growing companionship with the Commander is contrasted with the image of Serena Joy, alone in her garden, hacking away at seedpods. The monotony of her existence is only relieved by visits from and to other Wives, just as the monotony of Offred's life is only relieved by her secret visits with the Commander.

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