Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 16

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Chapter 16


  • In the next part of the Ceremony, the narrator, Serena Joy, and the Commander are in a bedroom. The narrator has on all her clothes except her underwear, while the other two are basically fully clothed, and she is lying between Serena Joy's legs. The two women are holding hands while the Commander has sexual intercourse with the narrator.
  • The narrator states that she is not in control, but that the Commander is not raping her, because she was offered a choice and she chose this over the alternative.
  • The narrator thinks that it's ironic how this ménage a trois, which in prewar time would have been a male fantasy, is completely without love, passion, or pleasure. Everyone is just uncomfortably doing his or her job, and they check out until it's over.
  • The narrator wonders if she'd have a better time if the Commander were more attractive, and reflects that he's better than the Commander she had before, who smelled bad.
  • The Commander finishes and leaves. Serena Joy tells the narrator to leave too. The narrator wonders who is worse off in this whole process.

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