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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale


by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 32 Summary


  • Inside, Rita is cutting up radishes and putting them in ice water. The narrator asks her for a match. At first Rita doesn't want to give it to her, but then she does. The matches are locked in a cupboard.
  • Rita gives the narrator an ice cube, which is unusual. The narrator saves her cigarette and her match and goes upstairs.
  • She's thinking about where to smoke her cigarette and how exciting it will be, when she pauses and realizes there are other things she could do with it. She thinks maybe she should eat the cigarette and save her match, so someday she could burn the house down.
  • She fakes napping.
  • Then she thinks about her meeting with the Commander the previous night. He had a drink, but she never does. They played silly Scrabble and he even turned on the radio for her, then they snuggled.
  • Ofglen has told the narrator that the Commander is really powerful.
  • Last night the Commander and the narrator had a talk about gender relations and how they affected the new world order. He says men were feeling emasculated by women working and having money, and that now that women are so restricted, men are more interested in sex.
  • He asks what she thinks about the way things have turned out.
  • She says she has no input. He tells her it made things better for some people, not for everyone.
  • Back at her naptime, the narrator wishes there would be a thunderstorm so the power would go out and she could go downstairs and have some human interaction with Rita and Cora.
  • The narrator looks up at the circle on the ceiling where the chandelier used to be, from which her predecessor hanged herself. She thinks about how the other handmaid found safety in death, and that she "feel[s] buried" (32.58).