The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Children Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Anyways, they're doing it for us all, said Cora, or so they say. If I hadn't of got my tubes tied, it could have been me, say I was ten years younger. It's not that bad. It's not what you'd call hard work. (1.20)
Cora's comment reveals a problem built into this new society, which is the lack of respect between Marthas and Handmaids, and the idea that the Handmaids have it easy. But the pressure to have a child by men the Handmaids don't love, only to be torn apart from that child after it's born, certainly seems like hard work, both emotionally and mentally.
The Commander's Wife directs, pointing with her stick. Many of the Wives have such gardens, it's something for them to order and maintain and care for.
I once had a garden. I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs held in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers. (3.2-3)
The garden works as a metaphor and substitute here for childrearing. The narrator "once had a garden," just as she once had a child. She was able to care for both of them, and both of them represented her "fullness" and maternal nature. But while the narrator cared for her own garden – and by extension, her child – the Commander's Wife does not. She "directs" someone else to take care of it, just as she directs the Handmaid to produce a child for her.
One of them is vastly pregnant [...] There is a shifting in the room, a murmur, an escape of breath; despite ourselves we turn our heads, blatantly, to see better; our fingers itch to touch her. She's a magic presence to us, an object of envy and desire, we covet her. She's a flag on a hilltop, showing us what can still be done: we too can be saved. (5.18)
Imagine a world in which pregnancy has become so rare and celebrated that a woman who accomplishes it becomes a "magic presence." For the Handmaids in particular, this pregnant woman represents not only the future of the human race, but the idea that "[they] too can be saved." Becoming pregnant is the one thing they can do to rescue themselves from death.