Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 23

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Chapter 23

Birth Day

  • The narrator explains that what she is telling is a "reconstruction," "all of it." She hopes she'll escape someday and says when she does, she'll restructure her experience once more. She wonders if maybe the act of forgiveness is the greatest power.
  • She thinks of the Commander telling her he wants to kiss her, and explains what happened leading up to that.
  • After the birth, she falls asleep and is woken up for dinner by Cora. Cora reveals that she'd like it if they could have a baby in their house too, and the narrator kind of hopes they don't. She remembers what Nick told her and is freaked out again.
  • That evening she goes down to the Commander's office, which is completely illegal. He's not supposed to desire her; she's just supposed to be a vehicle for childbirth.
  • If they're caught, she could be in real trouble, but if she doesn't obey him she could be in trouble too. She's intrigued, so she goes down and knocks on the forbidden door.
  • Inside she sees a "normal" room full of books. She's scared.
  • The Commander says hello, which people don't say anymore, and she doesn't know how to respond. He smiles and invites her to sit down before asking her to play Scrabble with him.
  • The narrator is amazed that that's what he wants but agrees. She takes great pleasure in getting to spell different words. They play two games and he asks her to leave, then he asks her to kiss him.
  • The narrator fantasizes briefly about turning part of the toilet into a weapon, just like Moira did, waiting for the next encounter, and killing the Commander. Then she says she's only thinking about it now, in her reconstruction, and didn't think it then at all.
  • Instead she briefly kisses him, and he asks her to do it again, for real.

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