Section 7: Night - Chapter eighteen

Synopsis of chapter eighteen

Offred lies in her bed thinking of Luke, and of being pregnant with their daughter. She longs to have him in her arms again. She thinks of the different possibilities of what has happened to Luke:

  • He may have been shot dead when they tried to escape
  • He may have been captured, imprisoned and tortured
  • He may have escaped to Canada and be trying to contact her.

She wonders if Luke still has hope.

Commentary on chapter eighteen

It's lack of love we die from - Offred repeats her desire, frequently expressed, for human touch and affection.

Here is what I believe - At the end of the novel, in the Historical Notes, we discover that Offred's story is a re-construction, and that events have not necessarily been given in the right order. In any case the whole narrative is of course an invention by Atwood. Here, Atwood reinforces this idea of narratives as constructed stories, able to be presented in different ways, by having Offred give us three different versions of what she ‘believes' about what has happened to Luke. (See also Structure and methods of narration.)

A wound ... the colour of tulips - The red of tulips has earlier been associated with vibrancy of living flowers, but here the vibrant colour suggests violence.

In reduced circumstances - In chapter 2 Offred punningly described herself as living ‘in reduced circumstances' - not because of financial hardship, which it usually means, but because her whole way of life is restricted. She uses the same phrase in chapter 19.

The things I believe can't all be true - Atwood makes us aware, through Offred here and later through the Historical Notes, of the complexity of the nature of ‘truth'. There are different versions of any event.

In Hope ... Does Luke hope? - We are reminded again of the cushions removed from her room; Gilead would like to remove both love and hope, which depend on individual feelings.

Investigating chapter eighteen

  • Offred says, ‘One of the gravestones in the cemetery.. has an anchor on it and an hourglass.'
  • What, in your opinion, are the possible meanings of these symbols
    • How do they relate to the words, ‘In Hope?'

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