Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

Birth Day

  • The Handmaids go upstairs to the birthing room, passing the dining room. The Wives have gathered around Warren's Wife, who's acting like she's in labor. The Commander isn't there.
  • The Handmaids go into the master bedroom, where Janine is in labor. Women, including Aunt Elizabeth, are preparing her for a ritual birth.
  • The whole neighborhood is there.
  • The narrator remembers Aunt Lydia saying it would be toughest for them, but she knows that's because future Handmaids won't remember a time when it wasn't like this.
  • In another flashback, the narrator remembers how they were shown movies at the Center. Aunt Lydia picked pornographic torture films to show how much better things had become (Moira said they were faked) and "Unwoman documentar[ies]" (20.14).
  • During one Unwoman documentary the narrator wonders where Moira is, because she wasn't at breakfast that day. She can't ask anybody, though.
  • When the film starts, the narrator is surprised to see a young version of her own mother at a protest rally, where it looks like they were advocating for abortion rights. Even though women at the Center aren't supposed to read, the writing on posters in the film is visible. The narrator's mother is present and then fades out.
  • The narrator thinks back to conversations with her mother and Luke. Her mother had her (the narrator) when she was thirty-seven, which seemed old then, even though her mother felt young. Her mother was determined to raise her alone, not depending on men or worrying about money. She was almost violently feminist.
  • Even when she was older, she still didn't want to depend on men, whom she thought were mostly worthless. At dinner with Luke and the narrator, she said even the narrator's father was worthless. She and Luke would tease each other by making chauvinistic statements.
  • Even though the narrator and her mother disagreed frequently, the narrator misses her and the way things were.

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