Section 14: Salvaging - Chapter forty-five

Synopsis of chapter forty-five

As Offred reaches the Commander's house, Serena Joy comes out, holding the sequinned costume and Serena's cloak in which the Commander took Offred to Jezebel's. Serena has seen lipstick on the cloak and has realised what has happened. She calls Offred a slut and sends her to her room.

Commentary on chapter forty-five

She has died that I may live ... Unless this woman is lying - Offred's initial relief - that the former Ofglen has not talked under torture - turns to a new fear as she realises that there is no way of knowing if Ofglen is really dead. The sacrificial nature of Ofglen's death is highlighted by the allusion to Jesus, whose death by crucifixion Christians believe allows them to live eternally (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

I want to keep on living in any form ... I am abject - Offred comes to realise that a régime which is totally tyrannical and inhuman can make its citizens do anything through the desperate desire to survive. This is also illustrated by Winston Smith's complete capitulation, body and soul, to the régime in 1984 (see Commentary on chapter 44 of The Handmaid's Tale).

Does she love him, after all? - Offred has moments when she realises that Serena Joy is a victim too, another exploited woman whose love for a man has been attacked by the régime. (See Themes and significant ideas > Doubling.)

Investigating chapter forty-five

  • Serena Joy says to Offred, ‘You could have left me something.'
    • What, in your opinion, is the ‘something' she is referring to?
      • Is it her dignity?
      • Her belief that her husband has ceased having illicit relations with his Handmaids?
      • Her hope that he might still love her in spite of her infertility?
      • Her faith that she and Offred were somehow allies after making their secret agreement with Nick?
      • Or what else could she mean?
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