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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 28 : Soul Scrolls | Summary



Offred sits in her room, looking out the window and feeling the summer breeze. She thinks of talking with Moira, who disapproved of her affair with Luke. She remembers having a job. This train of thought reveals the birth of Gilead. The president and members of Congress were assassinated, and their deaths were blamed on Islamic terrorists. To counter this threat, the army took over, the Constitution was suspended, roadblocks were set up, and new identity cards were required. Then laws were passed that did not allow women to have their own money or jobs. Offred realized that the men with guns who forced her evacuation from her workplace were not part of the regular army but some other group. She speculated that the shift from paper to electronic money laid the foundation for such an easy takeover. These developments introduced an awkward dimension into Offred's relationship with Luke, as he told her not to worry because he would take care of her; she wondered whether he enjoyed having this power over her.

In the present, she sees Nick out the window; he is wearing his hat askew, a sign that she is summoned to the Commander. She wonders what Nick thinks of the arrangement and what he gets out of his role in it.


Offred clearly resents the fact that Luke acts so calmly—so normal—after she loses so much. Moira frames sexual relationships as transactions, and Offred understands this logic when she feels that something has shifted in her romantic relationship with Luke after her social status is reduced. As soon as she loses her job and money, she begins to feel that he is patronizing and maybe even enjoying the role of protector. The feeling of being Luke's property rather than his equal makes her feel "small as a doll"—childlike, someone to be taken care of—rather than an independent woman, which foreshadows her fate in Gilead.

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