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The Handmaid's Tale | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale | Chapter 43 : Salvaging | Summary



After the hangings, Aunt Lydia tells the Handmaids to form a circle for an event called a Particicution. Two Guardians bring in a third Guardian, one who has been badly beaten, and Aunt Lydia announces that the man is guilty of rape. One of the victims was pregnant, she adds, and the baby died. The Handmaids are enraged, and when Aunt Lydia blows a whistle, they converge on the man and begin to beat him to death. While Offred refuses to participate, Ofglen delivers a particularly violent blow to the man's head. Later, she tells Offred that the man was not really a rapist but a political dissenter—"one of ours."


This chapter sows the seeds of the climax of the novel. Both Ofglen and Offred have acted in ways that could arouse suspicion. Offred has reacted too weakly to the situation by pulling back and showing her disgust; Ofglen has reacted too strongly, putting herself at risk by mercifully knocking out the accused man.

The enthusiasm shown by the Handmaids at the Particicution—constructed of the base words participation and execution—is evidence of the suppressed rage and hatred they feel toward men in general. There is a sense that the government may allow such expressions of rage to keep the Handmaids docile at other times.

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