The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Reading, Writing, and Storytelling Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Here is what I'd like to tell. I'd like to tell a story about how Moira escaped, for good this time. Or if I couldn't tell that, I'd like to say she blew up Jezebel's, with fifty Commanders inside it. I'd like her to end with something daring and spectacular, some outrage, something that would befit her. But as far as I know that didn't happen. I don't know how she ended, or even if she did, because I never saw her again. (38.69)
The narrator is using imagination as wish fulfillment here. As she tells her audience this story, she invents "something daring and spectacular" that "befit[s]" her best friend. Then, sadly, she has to return to the more prosaic reality: she doesn't know what happened to Moira, and neither do we.
I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light [...] I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love [...] (41.1)
In contrast to the moments in the text when the narrator seems unreliable, here she reinforces her reliability by stating what it isn't and lamenting what it is. She treats it as a real fact that can't be altered – in contrast to moments where she calls it a "reconstruction" (23.57). Because she does so, it seems like she doesn't have the power to change it.
I've only been to one of these before, two years ago. Women's Salvagings are not frequent. There is less need for them. These days we are so well behaved.
I don't want to be telling this story. (42.6-7)
Even though the narrator doesn't "want to be telling this story," she is. Why? Why is this such an essential element of the story that's unfolding? Maybe this episode is like medicine, included for our own good. Maybe it's included because it's such an essential part of what comes after. Maybe the narrator doesn't want to talk about it because of her fear that she might be Salvaged one day.