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)
I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window opens only partly and why the glass in it is shatter-proof. It isn't running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge. (2.4)
The narrator reminds us that there are different kinds of freedom, which the people in the Commander's house know about. She's not just forbidden from jumping out of the window or running out the door – they've actually removed all possibility of suicide.
We used to talk about buying a house like one of these, an old big house, fixing it up. We would have a garden, swings for the children. We would have children. Although we knew it wasn't too likely we could ever afford it, it was something to talk about, a game for Sundays. Such freedom now seems almost weightless. (5.4)
The freedom that the narrator and Luke used to take for granted is practically ridiculous now. Their fantasies are common enough: buy a house, raise a family, make a life. But these banal things are impossible now. The narrator says it "seems almost weightless": it's intangible, imaginary.
Now we walk along the same street, in red pairs, and no man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us. No one whistles.
There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it. (5.10-11)
Despite all that the women have lost, Aunt Lydia and Gilead argue, they are free now. They have "freedom from" things like sexist catcalls and potential abuse from strangers. They would argue that the women of Gilead should be grateful for such freedom rather than mourning the other freedoms they've lost.