The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Passivity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
To him I'm no longer merely a usable body. To him I'm not just a boat with no cargo, a chalice with no wine in it, an oven – to be crude – minus the bun. To him I am not merely empty. (27.23)
The narrator's base level of self-respect has really sunk in this demeaning position. Since everyone views her as "merely empty," when a man sees her as anything more, she can't help feeling something for him – even if the way he sees her brings another host of problems.
"It's a risk," I say. 'More than that." It's my life on the line; but that's where it will be sooner or later, one way or another, whether I do or don't. We both know this. (31.69)
The narrator is in danger no matter what she does. Even if she's passive, "sooner or later" push will come to shove and she'll find her life in jeopardy. So this is an argument for acting, to some extent, rather than being completely passive. Sure, it's more dangerous, but danger is always relative.
She is frightening me now, because what I hear in her voice is indifference, a lack of volition. Have they really done it to her then, taken away something – what? – that used to be so central to her? And how can I expect her to go on, with my idea of her courage, live it through, act it out, when I myself do not? (38.62)
One of the things that scares the narrator most is the change in Moira. Once rebellious, she now seems passive, speaking with "indifference" and "a lack of volition." This whole time, it seems, the narrator has been able not to act because she believed in Moira's potential for action.