Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 2

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Chapter 2


  • The narrator describes a room, minimally furnished and white. It's decorated in an old-fashioned feminine style and has one chair.
  • The room has a picture of flowers, but there's nothing in it that could be used as a weapon. A woman called Aunt Lydia said it was like being in the army. The narrator thinks that despite her situation, she wants to stay alive.
  • A bell rings and the narrator gets dressed in a red outfit that covers her whole body, including her hands, and shades her face. She takes her shopping basket and goes downstairs.
  • The house is big enough for a family, but there are no children. The narrator passes a mirror and umbrella stand and thinks of the Commander's Wife.
  • She goes to the kitchen and sees Rita, the cook, who's a "Martha." She wears an outfit that's similar to the narrator's, but it's green. When the narrator goes outside no one's supposed to see her face. Rita gives her some tokens.
  • The narrator thinks about how she eavesdropped on Rita and Cora, the cleaner, once. They were talking about the narrator and how they'd never do what she was doing—they would rather be Unwomen.
  • The narrator thinks she'd like to stay and talk with them, have coffee—which is now a luxury—and chat. She knows the Marthas chat to each other about dreadful things—children that don't make it, poison, death. But Rita won't talk to her; the Marthas aren't supposed to talk to the narrator and her kind.
  • She thinks about what this would be called, and about a man named Luke, who loved words.
  • She accepts the tokens, which have pictures of food on them, and on Rita's orders goes to the market.

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