The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Love Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The stains on the mattress. Like dried flower petals. Not recent. Old love; there's no other kind of love in this room now.
When I saw that, the evidence left by two people, of love or something like it, desire at least, at least touch, between two people now perhaps old or dead, I covered the bed again and lay down on it. (9.12-13)
This sign of love (or at least sex) depresses the narrator and she has to lie down. She does so on the bed where other people's love was expressed but where she will never experience it. Indeed, at this point she questions whether she'll ever know love again.
I ought to feel hatred for this man. I know I ought to feel it, but it isn't what I do feel. What I feel is more complicated than that. I don't know what to call it. It isn't love. (10.38)
Here the narrator defines how she feels about the Commander in terms of what her feelings are not. They are not "love"; they are "more complicated" than that. She may feel guilty because she doesn't hate the Commander, but nor does he come close to inspiring love in her.
The message will say that I must have patience: sooner or later he will get me out, we will find her. [...] What has happened to me, what's happening to me now, won't make any difference to him, he loves me anyway, he knows it isn't my fault. The message will say that also. It's this message, which may never arrive, that keeps me alive. I believe in the message. (18.18)
As the narrator waits for this "message" that will prove Luke's love for her, she proves her own love by waiting and "believ[ing]." This imagined sign will make everything OK; it will restore her family and celebrate their love. The sign is what "keeps [her] alive." In a house without love, she still imagines it coming back for her.