The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I want Luke here so badly. I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name, remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me. (17.11)
The narrator misses other elements of being a woman and a person. For her, being held, named, and valued in the ways she used to be – as a person, not a uterus – are a part of being a woman.
Can I be blamed for wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied. [...] I can stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark, but I too am dry and white, hard, granular; it's like running my hand over a plateful of dried rice; it's like snow. [...] I am like a room where things once happened and now nothing does, except the pollen of the weeds that grow up outside the window, blowing in as dust across the floor. (18.6)
Here the narrator feels dispassionate and alienated from her body. Even when she tries to touch herself, she doesn't feel anything; she just thinks of herself as an empty room.
Mother, I think. Wherever you may be. Can you hear me? You wanted a women's culture. Well, now there is one. It isn't what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies. (21.34)
In an ironic moment of anti-feminism, a "women's culture" does exist, but it isn't one any reasonable feminist (male or female) would have wanted. It's a terrible realization of a different kind of imagined equality.