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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 36 : Jezebel's | Summary



Offred visits the Commander's office again, where the Commander, who has been drinking ahead of time, gives Offred an illegal, sexy costume of feathers and sequins to wear along with some gaudy makeup. He sneaks her out of the house, wrapping her in a Wife's blue cloak. Nick secretly drives the pair to a red brick building after they manipulate their way through a couple of checkpoints. Nick drops the pair off in an alley behind the building and leaves, planning to return later to pick them up. The Commander gives Offred a purple tag to wear on her wrist and tells her to say she is "an evening rental."


Offred agrees to put on the costume and go out partly because anything that "subverts the perceived respectable order of things" is worth doing. She likes doing something that calls attention to the perverseness of society. She knows that there is a rottenness under the image of respectability, and she believes that her actions in some way expose this truth, even if at the same time she participates in her own objectification.

The ease with which the Commander and Nick execute their ruse and circumvent the law exposes the hypocrisy of Gilead. It is acceptable to behave immorally and engage in subversion by night as long as one gives the appearance of morality in the respectable light of day. Offred and Nick silently observe this hypocrisy even as they willingly participate in it.

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