Offred's child

A constant presence

Although we learn little about the child, Offred's daughter is always in her thoughts - so much so that Offred never feels the need to name her or to explain whom she is talking about. When Offred recalls coming back to consciousness after their failed escape attempt, she remembers screaming, ‘Where is she? What have you done with her?' From then on the reader understands that this poignant and anonymous ‘she' is the missing child, aged five when taken from Offred and eight years old by the end of the novel (before the Historical Notes).


One of the most tender and touching sections of the novel is when Offred is taking a bath and is suddenly ambushed by vivid memories of her daughter, brought to her mind by the smell of the soap:

‘I put my face against the soft hair at the back of her neck and breathe her in.'

Offred feels that, in a very real sense for her, her daughter ‘died when she was five', though she is also still alive and ‘must be' eight years old by now, though ‘it's easier to think of her as dead.'

Offred constantly thinks of their attempted escape, and of her child ‘holding her arms out to me, being carried away'. ‘Of all the dreams this is the worst,' Offred tells us; she wakes weeping, and has to ‘wipe my wet face with my sleeve'.

Her whereabouts

Offred has assumed that she will never know what has happened to her daughter, and that it is therefore better to think of her as dead. So she is horrified, outraged and bitterly angry when she discovers (chapter 30) that Serena Joy, who offers to show her a photograph of the child, has ‘known all along' where her daughter is. But when she sees the photograph (chapter 34), there is an additional sense of sadness for Offred as she realises that, for her daughter, ‘time has not stood still'. ‘I have been obliterated for her,' she senses,

‘I am only a shadow now, far back behind the glib shiny surface of this photograph.'

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