The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born. (12.25)
The narrator almost seems like she's been split into two parts: within this new Handmaid, "Offred," the narrator works to present a version of her self that is "a thing" she "compose[s]." She can't behave naturally or impulsively; she has to constantly play a role.
My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden. I tell myself it doesn't matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. (14.37)
Here the narrator tries to distance herself from the new name society has given her. She attempts, unsuccessfully, to convince herself that her name is separate from her identity. Getting to use her "real name" is important: it "does matter." When people are kept from using their real names, they become lesser versions of themselves and start to lose hold of their individuality and uniqueness.
And if I talk to him I'll say something wrong, give something away. I can feel it coming, a betrayal of myself. I don't want him to know too much. (29.16)
It seems here like even the simplest exchanges can reveal portions of identity. The narrator worries that through her conversation she will "give" herself "away," or "betray" what little she has left. While she desires to be known and recognized for herself again, she also has to acknowledge the danger inherent in that kind of action. So much for trying to be yourself.