The Handmaid's Tale: Novel Summary: Chapters 37-39
Offred recognizes the building they have entered as a former hotel. Inside, a party is going on. The courtyard is filled with women dressed for the most part in skimpy outfits. Men in dark uniforms or suits mingle with the women. The Commander tells Offred it is just like walking into the past. He tells the men he talks to that Offred is new. She does not have to do much talking, and is aware that the Commander is showing her off. He is also showing off to her, demonstrating how much he is a master of his world. He takes her into the lobby and they sit on a sofa, where he explains more about the club. It is officially forbidden, of course, but allowances have to be made, so the Commander says, for the fact that everyone is human. The club is only for officers, senior officials and trade delegations. Some of the women are former prostitutes who could not be assimilated into the new society, and they prefer working in the club. Others are former professional women, who prefer being in the club to the alternatives.
After the Commander moves off, Offred spots Moira, standing with two other women some distance away. She manages to catch her eye, and they meet in the women's washroom.
Offred is allowed in the washroom for fifteen minutes. There is a rest area there with easy chairs. Moira tells her the story of what happened after she escaped. She bluffed her way through the checkpoints and then got taken in by a Quaker couple who took her to another Quaker household which was a station on the Underground Femaleroad. She stayed underground for eight or nine months, moving from one safe house to another. Her aim was to get out of the country, but she was picked up in Maine, close to the border. Moira hints that she was then tortured, but she gives no details. She was then given a choice of being shipped to the Colonies, where she would get poisoned cleaning up toxic dumps, or working as a virtual sex slave in the club. She preferred the latter, and says the life is not too bad. She can have drink and drugs, and lesbian sex. No one really cares what she does, since the women at the club, which is known as Jezebel's, are considered beyond redemption anyway.
The Commander takes Offred to a private room in the building. Offred's thoughts turn to her mother, who was, according to Moira, sent to the Colonies. Offred remembers when she lost contact with her mother. She went to her apartment only to find that it had been ransacked. Her mother was nowhere to be seen.
Offred brings her thoughts back to the present. The Commander wants to have sex with her, but she finds it impossible to respond. She tells herself she is going to have to fake it.
The night club Jezebel reveals the full hypocrisy of the rulers of Gilead. The privileged and the powerful make rules for others that they are not prepared to observe themselves.
The scene at Jezebel's develops the theme of friendship between women. Moira is the one constant in Offred's life. She appears in all three time phases of the story: the "time before," when they were college students together; the time they were together at the Re-education Center, and the time they meet again in the present, at Jezebel's, which is the last time they see each other.
Offred and Moira have a robust relationship, with a lot of good- natured bantering. They bring out each other's sense of humor, and they also show concern for each other. Moira, who has more courage than Offred, is an inspiration to her friend. When Offred thinks that Moira may have given in to her fate (she hears indifference in her voice) she is worried that the regime has after all been able to rob her of her resilience and strength. Offred needs Moira to show heroism because she feels that she lacks it herself.
The Handmaid's Tale Study GuideChoose to Continue
- The Handmaid's Tale
- Chapters 1-4
- Chapters 1-4
- Chapters 5-8
- Chapters 9-12
- Chapters 13-16
- Chapters 17-20
- Chapters 21-24
- Chapters 25-28
- Chapters 29-32
- Chapters 33-36
- Chapters 37-39
- Chapters 40-43
- Chapters 44-46 & Historical Notes
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Margaret Atwood
- Essay Q&A