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Copy of The Handmaid's Tale

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Sandie Graham

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of Copy of The Handmaid's Tale

Desire for Knowledge & Freedom
Desire is a strong emotion that all humans experience, which ultimately cannot be restrained. In the Handmaid's Tale, the main character Offred has a hunger for freedom and knowledge (including remembering her past), that she is denied, living in the community of Gilead.
Desire for the Freedom to Love
Desire to Know the Unknown
In the Gilead society, the handmaid's are not allowed to be alone with their Commanders. So it comes as a surprise when Offred's Commander asks to privately see her in his office. She contemplates in her mind if it would be the right decision to go and meet him, but her curiosity gets the best of her;
"I want to know what he wants." (pg. 171)
Desire for Freedom
The community of Gilead, as stated before, is a very strict place. That means there is little to no room for freedom. So when Offred is offered the idea to be with another man in order to increase her chance to become pregnant, she takes it. However, it did not stop there. She continued to go to his room in the middle of the night, and eventually
"became reckless",
without the Commander's wife knowing, despite the bit of fear she had. Doing this gave her a sense of freedom which she was not able to experience for so long;
"I went back to Nick. Time after time, on my own... I did not do it for him, but for myself entirely... but I would not turn back... Fear is a powerful stimulant." (pg. 334 - 335)
The Handmaid's Tale
Offred has a desire to keep knowledge and remember things from her past, which she shows in the beginning of the story. For example, in the community of Gilead, the handmaids were forbidden to use their names. However, Offred, along with the others when they first arrived at the community, wanted to keep a bit of their past in order to have hope for the future (to go back to the way things were before);
"We yearned for the future." (pg.4)
. So she and the other handmaid's
"learned to whisper almost without sound." (pg.4),
so that they could lip-read & exchange names while in bed.
Desire to Remember

By: Sandie Graham
Longing for the Past
Along with a desire to remember things from her past, Offred often thought of those who were in her life before. One person she speaks of is her mother. Although their relationship wasn't always easy, she still desired to be with her. This was made clear when she said,
"I want her back." (pg.153)
. She also expressed her desire to go back to the way things used to be,
"I want everything back, the way it was." (pg.153)
Desire to Love
In her life before Gilead, before she got married to Luke, she had a desire to be with him. Because he was already married at the time, they had to sneak around. While in her own room exploring, she reminisces on when she did the same thing in her hotel room, waiting for Luke. In the story, Offred speaks on this;
"I was nervous. How was I to know he loved me? ... The knock would come at the door; I'd open, with relief, desire." (pg.63)

In the community of Gilead, the only women who are married are the Commander's wives. So the other woman, such as the Handmaid's, can feel an emptiness for love. Offred speaks of this when she goes explains why she & others steal butter as an absence for lotion;
"...we can believe that we will some day get out, that we will be touched again, in love or desire." (pg. 119-120)
Objects of the Past
Living in the conservative society that they do, objects from the past such as magazines are forbidden, forbidden so much that they were burned (pg. 48). So when Offred is given one by the Commander to look at, her deep desire for it is expressed, more than she would have like to believe;
"Staring at the magazine, as he dangled it before me like fish bait, I wanted it. I wanted it with a force that made the ends of my fingers ache. At the same time I saw this longing of mine trivial and absurd..." (pg. 194)
One evening while meeting with the Commander, Offred states that she feels she shouldn't continue to meet with him anymore. After hearing this, he asks her what it is she would like, in order for her to stay (after previously only asking for lotion). So Offred tells him she would like to 'know' - she has a curiosity and desire to learn of about the strict community she is subject to living in.

"I would like to know... Whatever there is to know... What's going on."
(pg. 236)
Desire for Affection
Not only can there be a desire for love, these woman can also feel a desire for affection. In the story, we find that Offred is a middle aged woman who was once married. Knowing this, it is almost certain that she would feel a longing to be 'felt' or
"touched by someone"
as any other woman in her position would feel. So when Nick finds her in the middle of the night in the kitchen and kisses her, it is only natural for her to express a deep desire for affection;
"It's so good, to be touched by someone, to be felt so greedily, to feel so greedy." (pg. 122)
Safety in Numbers
Despite Offred's desire for freedom, she still craved that safety - safety she would have had if she were still married to Luke. As she began to see Nick secretly night after night, she became closer to him, telling him personal things about herself (such as her name), even telling him things she shouldn't have. The reason was because he made her feel safe, as she states,
"Being here with him is a safety." (pg. 336).
And even though it was a risk, her desire for it to continue triumphed.
"If I were caught, there would be not quarter, but I'm beyond caring." (pg. 336)

Desire for Something New
After her rendezvous' with Nick, Offred's desire to leave the community slowly diminishes. Offglen, another Handmaid who is also against their current society, lets her know that there is an option to leave, that she and the other 'secret society of handmaid's' could help her escape if in danger. But much to what one would believe, she does not seem to care. Her feelings change. She has a new desire - to stay with Nick;
"The fact is that I no longer want to leave, escape, cross the border to freedom. I want to be here, with Nick, where I can get at him." (pg. 338)
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