The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 40 : Night | Summary



Back at home, Serena Joy fetches Offred at midnight, and she goes to Nick's apartment as planned. She tells the story of their sexual encounter twice but then says that neither of these accounts is completely accurate—that both are reconstructions. She feels guilty for enjoying sex with another man when Luke might be alive.


The contrast between the two accounts of Offred's sexual encounter with Nick is striking. The first resembles something from a movie, complete with dramatic flashes of lightning and rumbling thunder. The sentence structure—short phrases strung together with commas—suggests being caught up in a moment of passion, "never-ending." The second telling is a little more awkward, flirtatious, and realistic. Both versions end with, "I knew it might only be once." The varying versions capture Offred's attempt to capture the feeling of a situation with words, as the feeling is more important than fact.

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