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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Children Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Anyways, they're doing it for us all, said Cora, or so they say. If I hadn't of got my tubes tied, it could have been me, say I was ten years younger. It's not that bad. It's not what you'd call hard work. (1.20)

Cora's comment reveals a problem built into this new society, which is the lack of respect between Marthas and Handmaids, and the idea that the Handmaids have it easy. But the pressure to have a child by men the Handmaids don't love, only to be torn apart from that child after it's born, certainly seems like hard work, both emotionally and mentally.

Quote #2

The Commander's Wife directs, pointing with her stick. Many of the Wives have such gardens, it's something for them to order and maintain and care for.

I once had a garden. I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs held in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers. (3.2-3)

The garden works as a metaphor and substitute here for childrearing. The narrator "once had a garden," just as she once had a child. She was able to care for both of them, and both of them represented her "fullness" and maternal nature. But while the narrator cared for her own garden – and by extension, her child – the Commander's Wife does not. She "directs" someone else to take care of it, just as she directs the Handmaid to produce a child for her.

Quote #3

One of them is vastly pregnant [...] There is a shifting in the room, a murmur, an escape of breath; despite ourselves we turn our heads, blatantly, to see better; our fingers itch to touch her. She's a magic presence to us, an object of envy and desire, we covet her. She's a flag on a hilltop, showing us what can still be done: we too can be saved. (5.18)

Imagine a world in which pregnancy has become so rare and celebrated that a woman who accomplishes it becomes a "magic presence." For the Handmaids in particular, this pregnant woman represents not only the future of the human race, but the idea that "[they] too can be saved." Becoming pregnant is the one thing they can do to rescue themselves from death.

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