Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 31

By Margaret Atwood

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Chapter 31


  • The narrator wakes up and the nightmare that is her life continues. She says she can ask what calendar date it is (it's July 5th), but there's no point in counting down her time.
  • She puts on her shoes and reflects on how her body is aging. She thinks about Luke and how even fighting with him would be nice. She sits on her chair and waits for her egg breakfast.
  • Later that day she walks again with Ofglen from the church to the Wall. Today there are bodies hanging there, a Catholic's and another one with a "J" on it. The narrator wonders if this person is a Jew, then explains the religious prejudice in the country that forced all the Jews to leave. Whether they really got to, she doesn't know.
  • They keep walking so they can talk. They pass a building called Memorial Hall and the narrator thinks of Moira, who said once women couldn't go into it—men wanted to keep them out.
  • Ofglen tells the narrator that if she ever wants to get in touch with other people who are trying to resist the government, she should use their shared password: Mayday. Ofglen had tried it on the narrator before and now she tells her to only use it in an emergency.
  • The two part ways and the narrator passes by Nick—a signal—before she gets to the house.
  • She passes Serena Joy, who tells the narrator to stop and sit with her. Serena Joy asks the narrator to help her with her knitting.
  • This makes the narrator think about her mother, who didn't knit but made chains of safety pins.
  • Serena Joy asks the narrator whether she's making any pregnancy progress and suggests that the Commander isn't going to be able to impregnate her. For a moment they look at each other like equals.
  • Serena Joy suggests that the narrator should try to do it with another man and that she would help keep it a secret.
  • The narrator says not a doctor, then reflects that at her last appointment the doctor who had propositioned her wasn't there. Serena Joy says that's how Ofwarren (Janine) got pregnant, but suggests that they should use Nick.
  • The narrator realizes she's in danger whether she agrees or not, so she agrees. In exchange Serena Joy offers to try to get her a picture of her daughter. This both enrages and saddens the narrator, but she doesn't speak. She begins to feel hopeful.
  • Serena Joy gives her a cigarette—a rare treat—and tells her to go get a match.

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