Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 13

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Chapter 13


  • The narrator is bored. She sits in her room, waiting, and thinks about 19th-century paintings of harem women, about how women waiting is or isn't sexy. She compares herself to a pig getting fattened or a caged rat.
  • Lying on the rug, she does pelvic exercises and thinks of the training she got from Aunt Lydia.
  • When she was being held in the gymnasium, they had naps for an hour every afternoon. Lots of the women slept. The narrator thinks they might have been drugged.
  • After she'd been there a couple weeks, her friend Moira arrived. She'd been captured, beaten, and brought to the Center with the other women. She and the narrator couldn't speak to one another, but they managed to make plans to meet in the bathroom one afternoon.
  • The narrator experiences the next memory in the present tense. They wait. Their meeting time is during Testifying in front of Aunt Helena and Aunt Lydia that afternoon.
  • Janine testifies about being raped and having an abortion. The narrator's not sure if it's true or not. Aunt Helena encourages them to all blame Janine and say it was her fault.
  • Janine had testified the same story the previous week and cried. The other women made fun of her, and the narrator was ashamed.
  • After Janine is done talking, the narrator asks to go to the bathroom. This has to be timed just right. Dolores was forbidden when she asked once, then she wet the bed and was punished. The Aunts hurt her but the other captives don't know what happened.
  • The narrator makes it to meet Moira in the bathroom that used to be for men. She is "ridiculously happy" (13.43).
  • The memory ends and the narrator is back in her body. She worries about getting her period, because that means she's failed. Previously, she'd been able to think of her body in different ways and to own it. Now it's just a uterus encased in flesh. Each month she feels awful.
  • The narrator sees herself in the apartment she used to share with Luke. It's completely empty except for the closet, which is full of clothes that don't belong to her. She sees Luke but he can't hear her. She worries that he's dead.
  • Then the narrator flashes to another memory, where she and her daughter are running away. The daughter is tired and sad, and she doesn't understand what they're doing. Someone shoots at them and they hide. The narrator tries to protect her daughter but can't.
  • People are upon them. They grab the narrator and she watches as her daughter is carried away.
  • A bell rings and the narrator wakes up, hearing Cora at the door.

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