Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

Waiting Room

  • Back at the Commander's the narrator describes the bathroom. It's all blue and has been safety-proofed, just like the bedroom. Cora waits outside like a guard while the narrator bathes.
  • The narrator feels weird in what's a "luxury" (12.2) and strange being naked. She feels stranger still that the way she used to dress would be immodest now.
  • She relaxes in the bath and imagines her daughter is there. She refuses to believe her daughter could be dead and thinks back to how someone tried to adopt her when she was a baby. They were in a supermarket when a crazy woman grabbed the girl and tried to run away, saying it was her baby. The narrator called for help and they got the baby back. At the time, she says, it seemed out of the ordinary.
  • The memory of the little girl vanishes, and the narrator thinks back to the mother she used to be. All their possessions are gone, too.
  • Aunt Lydia had told her to treasure being poor and having nothing. The narrator worries that her daughter will think she is dead. She thinks her daughter would be about eight now, which means it's been three years since she was taken.
  • Cora asks the narrator to hurry up. She cleans herself and notices that her ankle has been marked with a tattoo. She gets dressed again and goes back to her room.
  • Cora brings the narrator dinner in her room. The food is nutritious but bland. The narrator knows she's lucky to have this food, but it makes her feel nauseous. She might get in trouble if she doesn't eat, so she forces herself to.
  • She thinks about the polite meal going on downstairs, where the Commander's Wife doesn't have to eat her whole meal if she doesn't want to.
  • The narrator steals a bit of butter off the plate and hides it in one of her shoes.

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