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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 38 : Jezebel's | Summary



An Aunt is on guard in the ladies' room. As Moira emerges from a bathroom stall, the two friends greet each other with friendly insults about their costumes. Moira gives Offred an overview of her story. She stole Aunt Elizabeth's clothes and walked out of the Red Center, bluffing her way through the checkpoints and seeking out a Quaker couple for help. She traveled from safe house to safe house on the Underground Femaleroad for about eight to nine months. Eventually, she was caught, tortured, and assigned to this brothel, known as Jezebel's. Offred is disheartened that the old rebellious Moira seems to have disappeared, ending the chapter with "I never saw her again."


Of all the blows Offred has endured, witnessing Moira's defeat is one of the worst. Moira is the "loose woman" who excites and frightens the women at the Red Center. She is a stable and inspirational presence in Offred's memories. She is the source of the freckles and spirited personality Offred imagines also belong to the previous occupant of her room at the Commander's house. She is the one who takes action when all of the others are passive. Now Offred understands that Moira has become indifferent and resigned; she is as passive as Offred herself, claiming that life at Jezebel's is not that bad. Because Offred draws strength from her memory of Moira's courage, Offred wishes that she could reconstruct Moira's story, tell that she escapes successfully or blows up Jezebel's while it is filled with Commanders. Instead, like Luke, Moira stops in time in her moment of resignation because Offred has no further evidence to add to the story.

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