The motif of time is very apparent in this section. Time, something are never thought much of before her new life, is now an object she thinks about frequently. “There’s time to spare. This is one of the things I wasn’t prepared for – the amount of unfilled time,” (Atwood 69). “In the afternoons we lay o our beds for an hour in the gymnasium…they were giving us a chance to get used to blank time,” (70). “The clock ticks with its pendulum, keeping time my feet in their neat red shoes count the way down,” (79).
This motif shows how much the lives’ of the women, including Offred’s, has changed. They are restricted from doing so much that the amount of free time they have overwhelms them.
The Handmaid’s Tale has many connections to 1984 by George Orwell. One connection is that in both stories, one cannot be sure whether what the government says is true or not. “Who knows if any of [the news] is true? It could be old clips, it could be faked…Any news, now is better than none,” (82).
In 1984, the government changed all media so that it supported the Party, and Winston, the main character, could not be sure of what was real and what was faked, similarly to Offred in this instance. Another connection between the two books is that sex is not to be a pleasurable thing; it is merely to produce offspring. “It has nothing to do with passion or love or romance…It has nothing to do with sexual desire…Arousal and orgasm are no longer thought necessary…this is not recreation…this is…duty,” (94-95). Both governments want to control the emotions their subjects possess.
Moira, Offred’s best friend, is a symbol of strength and hope to Offred. Moira was able to escape from the Aunts, something no other woman was able to do. “It makes me feel safer, that Moira is here,” (71). Though Offred is unsure of what has happened to Moira, she hopes Moira is well. Many of Offred’s flashbacks are of times when Offred and Moira were together. Many of Offred’s flashbacks are of memories of Moira and het together. Moira was strong; “Moira stood up straight and looked firmly ahead. She drew her shoulders back, pulled up her spine…Moira had power now, she’d been set loose…She was now a loose woman,” (132-133). Since Moira was able to escape, Offred hopes that one day she can also be free.
The most disturbing part of this book is when Janine, currently a handmaid, tells her story of how she was gang-raped at age fourteen. The Aunts ask the questions, “But whose fault was it? Who led them on? Why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen?” to which the other girls training to be handmaids replied, “Her fault,” “She did,” “Teach her a lesson,” (72). Janine burst into tears and said, “It was my fault…It was my own fault. I led them on. I deserved the pain,” (72). This part makes me very angry because it is so messed up. How can anyone say that a young girl deserved to be raped, and by more than one person? That is one of the sickest logics I have ever seen. This shows the way women were portrayed. Everything is their fault; men have no blame over their actions, and are never at wrong; women are inferior to men.
There are many instances of irony in this section. The first instance is when the Commander reads from the Bible right before the “ceremony” with Offred. He reads, “Blessed be the poor in spirit…Blessed are the merciful. Blessed be the meek. Blessed be the silent…Blessed be those that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” (89). Though these words themselves are not ironic, the irony is that the words from the Bible, which are meant to give peace and comfort to people, are the words that are giving women so much pain and mistreatment. Another instance of irony is when Aunt Lydia tells the handmaids-in-training that they “you’re getting the best…you are spoiled girls,” (89). These “spoiled girls” are raped once a month and are forced to give up their babies to another mother. The worst part is that many people actually believe that these things are right, when they are clearly cruel.