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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 2 Summary

Shopping

  • The narrator describes a room, minimally furnished and white. It's decorated in old-fashioned feminine style and has one chair.
  • The room has a picture of flowers, but there's nothing in it that could be used as a weapon. A woman called Aunt Lydia said it was like being in the army. The narrator thinks that despite her situation, she wants to stay alive.
  • A bell rings and the narrator gets dressed in a red outfit that covers her whole body, including her hands, and shades her face. She takes her shopping basket and goes downstairs.
  • The house is big enough for a family, but there are no children. The narrator passes a mirror and umbrella stand and thinks of the Commander's Wife.
  • She goes to the kitchen and sees Rita, the cook, who's a "Martha." She wears an outfit that's similar to the narrator's, but it's green. When the narrator goes outside no one's supposed to see her face. Rita gives her some tokens.
  • The narrator thinks about how she eavesdropped on Rita and Cora, the cleaner, once. They were talking about the narrator and how they'd never do what she was doing – they would rather be Unwomen.
  • The narrator thinks she'd like to stay and talk with them, have coffee – which is now a luxury – and chat. She knows the Marthas chat to each other about dreadful things – children that don't make it, poison, death. But Rita won't talk to her; the Marthas aren't supposed to talk to the narrator and her kind.
  • She thinks about what this would be called, and about a man named Luke, who loved words.
  • She accepts the tokens, which have pictures of food on them, and on Rita's orders goes to the market.

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