The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale The Home Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The kitchen smells of yeast, a nostalgic smell. It reminds me of other kitchens, kitchens that were mine. It smells of mothers; although my own mother did not make bread. It smells of me, in former times, when I was a mother.
This is a treacherous smell, and I know I must shut it out. (8.30-31)
The narrator has to "shut out" the good and homey smells of yeast and bread-making because they remind her, terribly, of when she was a mother herself.
But all around the walls there are bookcases. They're filled with books. Books and books and books, right out in plain view, no locks, no boxes. No wonder we can't come in here. It's an oasis of the forbidden. I try not to stare. (23.25)
The idea of all these books being locked away and "forbidden" is, of course, a nightmare for Shmoop. Can you imagine being prohibited from reading? No wonder the narrator is blown away by this "oasis of the forbidden"; this has to be the most exciting, dangerous room in the house.
My room, then. There has to be some space, finally, that I claim as mine, even in this time.
I'm waiting, in my room, which right now is a waiting room. When I go to bed it's a bedroom. (9.1-2)
Finally the narrator concedes that the room she spends so much time in is hers. She does so grudgingly, saying, "there has to be some space [...] that I claim as mine." The idea of having personal space seems to become necessary to hold on to her sanity. The room, despite its limitations, is almost magical in its ability to transform itself into "a waiting room" when the narrator waits, versus a "bedroom" when she sleeps.