Study Guide

The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 39

By Margaret Atwood

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Chapter 39


  • The narrator goes back to the Commander, who has a key to one of the hotel rooms. They go up. It looks just like it used to, all covered in flowers.
  • She goes into the bathroom to compose herself. While she's in there, she feels at home.
  • She remembers how Moira just told her that she saw the narrator's mother. This freaked the narrator out because she thought she was dead.
  • Moira says she saw her in a movie about the Colonies. The narrator is grateful, but Moira says her mother would be better off dead.
  • The narrator tries to remember when she saw her mother for the last time, but she can't. She has an impression of a bunch of casual meetings that didn't seem that important at the time. They had a unique relationship.
  • In the memory, things suddenly change for the worse a couple of weeks later. The narrator tries to call her mother but can't get hold of her. She worries her mother is ill or dead.
  • She and Luke eventually convince the guard to let them into her mother's apartment, which is completely empty.
  • The narrator wants to call the police, but Luke won't let her. He says there's no point.
  • The narrator remembers Moira liking her mother, then worries about her in the Colonies.
  • She will have to keep grieving.
  • The narrator ends her flashback and returns to the present. She looks at herself in the mirror and thinks she looks like a mess. She's running out of time; the Commander is getting impatient. They have a Ceremony the next night.
  • She comes out of the bathroom and wishes they weren't going to do this, that even the Ceremony is better.
  • She lies down on the bed. The Commander touches her, revealing that she has a tattoo, as presumably all the Handmaids do. But the narrator has a hard time responding. She doesn't feel for him.
  • He decides to turn out the lights, and she forces her body to respond to his.

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