After completing "The Ceremony", another term for Offred's rape at the hands of the Commander and Serena Joy, Offred seems to settle into life with her new family. Things take an interesting turn after the Commander begins to summon her to his study in the middle of the night for games of scrabble and philosophical discussions, even going so far as letting her read contraband materials. This small taste of freedom doesn't assuage Offred's suspicion, however, as it may be harder to determine the Commander's intentions than it seems.
This week, I couldn't really find anything I didn't like, so in lieu of the usual What I liked/What I Didn't Like format, I have decided to organize this week's discussion by general talking points instead...
Things to Discuss:
- The Ambiguity of Luke: I kind of loved how ambiguous Luke is. We don't know much about him, we don't even know where he ended up. Even Offred's feelings for him, like her feelings for basically everything, are very muted- a result of her suddenly precarious and traumatizing lifestyle.
- Moira's Escape: The description of Moira's escape is a definite "hell yeah" moment in the book. Moira doesn't give up, she is empowered, both by her escape, and the air of mystery that surrounds her story. We don't know for sure where she ended up, but it is clear that Offred puts her on a pedestal almost, and we are all rooting for her.
- The Commander's Position: On page 100 we are given a really powerful description of what kind of position the Commander is in in this new world. Offred notes that he is in a position of power, with all the women of his house completely at his command and mercy. She ruminates on the erotic nature this must have, but then she also implies that he is also put at a disadvantage. "It must be very silent" she states, highlighting how he is without someone to challenge him and who he can challenge in return. It would appear that he is also painfully aware of this disadvantage, as he ends up taking a great risk by inviting Offred to play scrabble with him and discuss contraband with him in his study.
- The Nazi's Lover: I felt like Offred's description of the Nazi's Lover starting on page 167 was a very powerful statement. Humans have a tendency of humanizing those they are close to, of excusing their crimes, or just staying blind to them, especially when love is involved. In Nazi Germany, this was especially prevalent. What is strange is how Offred almost identifies with this woman. She describes how, really, this woman was very ordinary. She was just a regular woman who was in love and was trying to carry on life as "decently" as she could. She was, ultimately, making do with what she had, taking one day at a time, much like Offred is doing throughout the novel. Offred also conserves herself, she is normalizing her existence in her mind, and routinely humanizes her oppressors. She is focusing on the small things and receding into herself, and I think this anecdote highlights that.
- The Aunts: I think that the Aunts are inherently interesting to me because they are both the oppressed and the oppressors. Any civilization seeking to oppress another, will seek out a few that they can influence and will then utilize these few to oppress the rest, much like how American slave owners would sometimes select slave to become overseers. On the surface, the Aunts are maternal and caring, almost nun-like in behavior and lifestyle, but their ultimate use as brainwashing tools is definitely one of the more dark and twisted aspects of the novel
- Serena Joy: I feel like I have a love hate thing going on with Serena Joy. On one hand, she is a seemingly cruel woman, who is largely responsible for how Gilead came about, as it is revealed that she was a famous Gospel Star who was an advocate for many of the extreme views the founders of Gilead had. At the same time, Offred also wonders at times whether or not Serena herself regrets her own involvement. It is definitely clear that this is not exactly what she had signed up for, and that she bit of a bit more than she could chew. Though she was conservative in nature before the uprising, it would seem that she still enjoyed quite a bit of power and voice, and now all of that has been taken away, just as it has been taken away from the rest of the women of Gilead, and I can't help feeling sorry for her and also drawn to her as she does hold one of the few positions of power for women in this new society.
Quote of the Week
"The things i believe can't all be true, though one of them must be. but i believe in all of them, all three versions of luke, at one and the same time. the contradictory way of believing seems to me, right now, the only way i can believe anything. whatever the truth is, i will be ready for it. this also is a belief of mine. this also may be untrue," (121).
- Do you agree with my summation of the importance of the Nazi's lover? What sign of importance do you think that this scene holds for the narrative as a whole?
- Why do you think the Commander is so interested in visiting and getting to know Offred? Would you consider him oppressed from the strict Gilead society as well? How is his oppression different from Offred's oppression?
- I couldn't find anything I didn't like this week, as I think much of the story telling is pretty flawless? As I'm not sure I'm being entirely objective, I would love for you to raise any problems you found while reading! (just make sure to keep it all polite ;P)
- What other questions/comments/talking points do you want to discuss? Post them in the comments!