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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Passivity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Aunt Lydia said it was best not to speak unless they asked you a direct question. Try to think of it from their point of view she said, her hands clasped and wrung together, her nervous pleading smile. It isn't easy for them. (3.18)

The attempted indoctrination of the Handmaids is so complete that they're forced not only to give up all of their own rights but encouraged to feel pity for the people abusing those rights. That's passivity in the extreme; Aunt Lydia is encouraging them to be doormats.

Quote #2

Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. (10.24-25)

This quote implies an active passivity, if that makes sense. The narrator and other characters in her position have to "work at" being passive, or at "ignoring" their situation. They have to deliberately refuse to rebel.

Quote #3

I lie, lapped by the water, beside an open drawer that does not exist, and think about a girl who did not die when she was five; who still does exist, I hope, though not for me. Do I exist for her? Am I a picture somewhere, in the dark at the back of her mind? (12.13)

The narrator's mental passivity is echoed by her physical passivity here as she "lie[s], lapped by the water" in her bath. Her mind wanders even though her body cannot.

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