The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Freedom and Confinement Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds, about things like this.
Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom.
Westernized, they used to call it. (5.33-35)
The hits just keep coming as the narrator is continually reminded of the freedoms she has lost. Here, confronted with a group of Japanese tourists, she remembers that the way she "used to dress" wasn't just about personal style; it also represented freedom. Being forced to wear the Handmaid uniform represents all the autonomy she's lost.
As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out, that we will be touched again, in love or desire. We have ceremonies of our own, private ones. (17.6)
Another kind of freedom or potential to escape exists here too. By stealing butter and using it as a pathetic sort of lotion, the narrator and the other Handmaids "can believe that [they] will some day get out." Here the potential of freedom lies within an ordinary household staple.
Moira had power now, she'd been set loose, she'd set herself loose. She was now a loose woman.
I think we found this frightening.
Moira was like an elevator with open sides. She made us dizzy. Already we were losing the taste for freedom, already we were finding these walls secure. In the upper reaches of the atmosphere you'd come apart, you'd vaporize, there would be no pressure holding you together. (22.45-47)
This shows how successful the Center is at brainwashing women and teaching them to believe in this new regime. It hasn't taken long for the women there to "los[e] the taste for freedom" and "find[…] these walls secure." So while once Moira would have been seen as a motivating force – a fantasy of an escape made good – the women in the Center are already retreating from their old notions of freedom and rights.