Section 10: Soul scrolls - Chapter twenty-six

Synopsis of chapter twenty-six

The time for the Ceremony - when the Commander attempts to impregnate Offred - comes round again. However, she now feels that he is conscious of her as a human being and she finds this disconcerting. She also feels differently towards the Commander's Wife, experiencing a sense of guilt, but also a sense of power that Serena Joy does not know about the evenings in the study. Nevertheless, Offred is anxious in case the Commander gives them away, by his body-language. She is aware that she is now a person for him, and becoming an individual.

Commentary on chapter twenty-six

This state of absence … true of the Commander too - Previously Offred had separated her mind and body when with the Commander, and felt he did the same. They are now conscious of each other.

copulation... an embarrassing breach of propriety - Offred is now aware of both herself and the Commander. As her individuality starts to re-assert itself, so she becomes aware of his, and of Serena Joy's - and hence the Ceremony starts to take on moral implications. Gilead has failed to repress her individuality and her sense of moral choice.

taking something away ... power over her - Offred feels that she is exercising, even in a limited way, some moral choice. She is now behaving unfairly to the Wife - but she also enjoys a sense of some individual power which has been denied to her for so long.

Impersonal - the Commander has now started to see Offred as an individual.

from the way I was speaking to him - Language does not merely convey fact; it reflects relationships, hierarchy and individual attitudes. Until now, Offred has been mostly silent or has used stock phrases approved by the régime in Gilead.

He's of interest to me ... To him I am not merely empty - There has been a significant change for Offred in her relationship with the Commander, and she now begins to recover more of her sense of individuality and self-worth. (See also Themes and significant ideas > Individualism and identity.)

Investigating chapter twenty-six

  • ‘You can see from the way I was speaking to him that we were already on different terms.'
    • Consider all the possible ways in which you could say ‘No' to a request
    • Now consider how you might change your response according to:
      • The status of the person you were talking to
      • Your relationship with them.

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