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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 32 : Jezebel's | Summary



Though she is excited by the prospect of smoking a cigarette, Offred considers throwing it down the toilet or eating it to save the match. She imagines using the match to burn the house down.

The Commander has begun drinking alcohol when they meet. The alcohol makes him lose his reserve. One night, he tries to explain the transformation of the society. He claims that women's economic independence emasculated men. By restricting women, men's appetite for sex increases. However, he admits, "Better never means better for everyone ... It always means worse, for some."

Later, in bed, Offred stares at the ceiling where the chandelier used to be. She thinks about the previous occupant of the room and how she found safety in death while Offred feels buried in life.


The ability to choose from a variety of options regarding the cigarette and the match is exciting for Offred, reminding readers of the severe limitations on Offred's liberty.

The Commander's attempt to justify Gilead's radical laws reveals layers of selfishness and inhumanity with regard to gender. He tells Offred that the society is planned to address men's complaints. Obtaining sex was too easy, he tells her. There was nothing to work for, he tells her. He says, "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." As one of the broken, Offred is not comforted by the explanation.

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