The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 30 : Night | Summary



Offred looks out the window at the night. She sees Nick, toward whom she feels an attraction on which she cannot act. She feels conflicted about her attraction to Nick because she does not know Luke's fate.

She remembers that on the night before they made their escape attempt, Luke killed their cat. They could not take it with them or leave it to advertise their absence. She knows now that the cat's death was meaningless, because they were caught anyway. She wonders who betrayed the family by turning them in. She has a hard time remembering the faces of those she has lost and feels guilty. With these thoughts in mind, she prays to God. However, unlike the prayers in the Red Center, where the women ask to be made empty and then filled with babies, Offred prays for assistance, forgiveness, and the strength to keep living. God is silent.


The incident with the cat helps Offred understand the mental process involved in causing another suffering or death. Before Luke kills the cat, he calls the animal "it" rather than "her." Before causing harm to another creature, one must first erase its identity. In this case, Offred's experience as a Handmaid parallels the experience of the cat and the hanged people with their faces covered.

The inability to remember people's faces is tied to the theme of identity and is a recurring image in the novel. As Offred loses her memories, she loses herself.

Offred's sincere and unscripted prayer contrasts with the impersonal, commercialized, mechanized prayers of the Soul Scrolls. However, in each case, God is absent. Offred does not believe that God hears the Soul Scrolls, and her own prayers go unanswered. In a world where religion has been corrupted to serve human ambition, God is hard to find.

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