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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale


by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 15 Summary


  • The flashback is over and the Commander comes into the room after knocking first. He nods to them, and then gets out the Bible, which is usually locked away. He's going to read it to the others, who are not allowed to read. He asks for some water before beginning.
  • While they wait for someone to get water, the narrator watches the Commander and thinks about what it means for a man to be watched by women rather than the reverse.
  • After the water comes, the Commander reads to them from Genesis, about Adam, Noah, Rachel, and Leah. The narrator is familiar with these stories from the Center, where they heard them every day.
  • In another flashback, the narrator remembers the Center, where they had to listen to Genesis at breakfast and the Beatitudes at lunch. Since women aren't supposed to read, they play a recorded version of a man reading. This version has been altered, the narrator thinks, to include "Blessed are the silent."
  • On this particular day in the narrator's memory, she meets Moira in the bathroom during lunch. The two argue. Moira is going to fake being sick so she can get out of the center, but the narrator doesn't want her to—she's afraid of the consequences. Before they can finish their conversation an Aunt interrupts them, and they touch fingers through a hole in the wall before separating.
  • The memory ends and the narrator listens to the Commander finish reading about Leah, while Serena Joy cries quietly. The Commander says they should all pray.
  • The narrator prays with the Latin words she found in her closet. She imagines the woman who wrote them looks like Moira and returns to her flashback.
  • She watches Moira get taken out of the Center on a stretcher. That night Moira is brought back by force. The narrator watches as Moira is taken into a scary room. It's not clear whether the narrator ever went in the room herself or just knows what happened there from watching others go in. When Moira is brought out of the room, her feet have been beaten to a bloody pulp.
  • To try to help, the narrator and some other women steal sugar to give to her; it's the best they can do.
  • The narrator ends her flashback but is still thinking about Moira while she prays.
  • The Commander finishes his prayer and this part of the Ceremony concludes.

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