Objections to the use of The Handmaid’s Tale in a class of high school minors.



            This book is saturated with sexual allusions, innuendos, crude references, and seven actual sex acts described, one more than a page long.  There are at least 64 sexual allusions and/or acts in this 300 page book, including seven sex scenes.  Only one of these scenes occurs inside a marriage, and this is a marriage which started as a 2-year affair.    There are multiple allusions to promiscuous sex in youth and adulthood.  There is the forced substitutionary sex of the handmaid in order to conceive a child for the wife and husband.  There is voluntary prostitute-style sex.  There is free adult sex just because, in spite of supposed love for the real husband.  In addition, there are multiple graphic descriptions of pornographic, sadistic sex.  There is also a very detailed account of giving birth, and a graphic description of the menstrual cycle.  There is a one- paragraph description of a man delving his penis into another’s vagina in the most graphic, sensual language.

            There is also stated rationalization for lesbianism and a reference to masturbation.


High school is the age during which sexual hormones are pumping at the highest rate in life.  Teens are trying to adjust to these overwhelming desires and learn their appropriate place in life.  They are also reaching out to discover and cement their views on what is normal in sex.  Sexual orientation and perspective, as well as attitudes of how to relate romantically to the opposite sex are being made during high school.  Sexual curiosity is at an all time high in the teen years, but maturity to use that knowledge wisely is at an all time low. 

            Therefore, it is extremely irresponsible to introduce a book such as this to teens.  This book attempts to normalize promiscuous, adulterous, and multiple sex partners, same-sex, masturbation, and sadistic sexual torture.  They are presented in a way that titillates sexual appetite, while debasing human dignity and faithfulness.  Further, the male/female relationship in the book is highly hostile and dysfunctional.  Such attitudes are unconsciously internalized into the teen’s developing world view of male/female relationships at the time when their potential impact is the highest it will ever be.  Serious, permanent damage can be done to our teens be exposing them to this sex-saturated, book. 

            If a student attempted to wear the clothes and commit the acts portrayed in this book, he or she would be suspended and probably kicked out of school permanently.  Why then would a school district encourage such behavior by requiring the careful study of it? 


Please see the references to sexuality below the introduction, starting on page 3.



            This book contains at least 11 references to suicide, much imagining of how to do it, with five alternatives proposed, and accounts of three actual suicides successfully carried out.  All social studies show that teens are among the highest at risk for suicide.  It is totally irresponsible and potentially lethal for a teacher to force on students a book that preys on the emotional instability inherent in the teen years. A nurturing teacher should be helping develop solid ways of coping in life for her students. Instead, those weakest in our society are taught repeatedly in this book the best and main way out of trouble and hard times is suicide.  Surely with suicide murders such as Columbine in our recent collective history, such irresponsible curriculum choices border on the criminal.


Please see references and quotations below introduction starting on page 10.


Drugs, drinking, and smoking.

            Drugs, drinking, and smoking are portrayed as positive, desirable products in this book, although they are not a major emphasis.


Please see references below on page 11.



            Profanity is portrayed as normal and acceptable including the use of the following:

            bastardes (in Latin, later translated and expounded on in detail)

            puss, shit, fuck, fucking, bitch, fuck that shit, for godsake, fucking pigs, fucking bleeders, hell, goddam, ass, piss

            This sort of language is not allowed spoken in our classes.  Why should the district force our most advanced students to read it?


Please see references below on page 11.



            An abundance of crude references are sprinkled throughout the book.  None of us enjoy hearing crudities ourselves.  Why would we teach our youth to think in these terms?


Please see references below starting on page 12.


Attack on the Christian Religion

            This book is vicious and non-stop in its attempt to make a travesty of the Christian faith.  The Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, other Holy Scripture, Jesus, the Apostle Paul are all quoted and misquoted and put in juxtaposition with extremely unholy and unorthodox applications of their teachings, to put Christianity in a distorted and worst possible light.  Use and distortion of common phrases and terms used by many Christians are constantly put in, then given profane applications that would cause anyone unfamiliar with true Christianity to be horrified at it. 

            The underlying thesis of the book is that if Christians were allowed to have their way, we would end up with the nightmare society described in the book, and that women would be subjugated to the worst sort of human rights violations and humiliation and sexual subjugation.  Love would be virtually impossible in this society.  Sex would be perverted and yet rampant.  The objective reality is that women in countries with a higher percentage of professing Christians enjoy the highest human rights and status in society of any countries.  It is rather in countries where Christianity is outlawed or discouraged that women have suffered under the most severe human rights denials.  Indeed, many of the descriptions of women under this supposed future society ruled by these so-called Christians can be found today in very similar parallels in many of these countries where Christianity is out-lawed.

            It appears the purpose of the author is to discredit Christianity as a religion and try to bind and gag Christians from ever speaking out against objectionable morals and behavior, such as are found rampantly in this very book.  This obviously serves the author’s purpose to propagate a society of low sexual standards where perversion is the norm.  But how does this suit the best interest of our teens in high school?


Please see references below starting on page 13. 



            One reason cited as justification for using this book in high school is that it is for a college-level AP credit course.  However, this is not a mandatory text nationwide in our colleges.  So this does not justify mandating it for high schoolers.  Also, there is a significant difference in the level of maturity between a college student and a high school student.  This is an adults-only book that would doubtless have to be rated X if made as written into a movie.  It is totally inappropriate for high school students. 

            If the curriculum committee, department heads, and teachers, who chose this book agree with and approve the sort of base sexuality and  lack of  basic morality this author portrays, and can keep that in their own private lives, I would be disappointed but not object.  But when this gross standard of abnormal sexuality is required reading for our minors, this has crossed the line of acceptable freedom.   The Handmaid’s Tale  should be banned from the reading list for (deleted) classes at all levels. 



Quotations Taken from the Book to Support the Above Points

Sexual Allusions/Sex Scenes, Pornography, Sadistic Pornography



p. 38 Sadistic Pornography: It had a pretty woman on it, with no clothes on, hanging from the ceiling by a chain wound around her hands.  I looked at it with interest.  It didn’t frighten me.  I thought she was swinging, like Tarzan from a vine, on the TV. 


p. 88* Sex. Graphic allus, description of a penis entering a vagina: To have them putting him on, trying him on, trying him out, while he himself puts them on, like a sock over a foot, onto the stub of himself, his extra, sensitive thumb, his tentacle, his delicate, stalked slug’s eye, which extrudes, expands, winces, and shrivels back into himself when touched wrongly, grows big again, bulging a little at the tip, traveling forward as if along a leaf, into them, avid for vision.  To achieve vision in this way, this journey into a darkness that is composed of women, a woman, who can see in the darkness while he himself strains blindly forward.


p. 118 Sadistic Graphic Pornography: Sometimes the movie she showed would be an old porno film, from the seventies or eighties.  Women kneeling, sucking penises or guns, women tied up or chained or with dog collars around their necks, women hanging from trees, or upside-down, naked, with their legs held apart, women being raped, beaten up, killed.  Once we had to watch a woman being slowly cut into pieces, her fingers and breasts snipped off with garden shears, her stomach slit open and her intestines pulled out. 



p. 93* Graphic Sex, distorted sex, extreme distortion of the normal meaning of sex: the Ceremony goes as usual.  I lie on my back, fully clothed except for the healthy white cotton under drawers. What I could see, if I were to open my eyes, would be the large white canopy of Serena Joy’s outsized colonial-style four-poster bed, suspended like a sagging cloud above us, a cloud sprigged with tiny drops of silver rain, which if you looked at them closely, would turn out to be four-petaled  flowers….Or the sail of a ship.  Big-bellied sails, they used to say, in poems. Bellying. Propelled forward by a swollen belly….Above me, towards the head of the bed, Serena Joy is arranged, outspread.  Her legs are apart, I lie between them, my head on her stomach, her pubic bone under the base of my skull, her thighs on either side of me.  She too is fully clothed.  My arms are raised; she holds my hands, each of mine in each of hers.  This is supposed to signify that we are one flesh, one being.  What it really means is that she is in control, of the process and thus of the product.  If any.  The rings of her left hand cut into my fingers.  It may or may not be revenge.  My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher.  Below it the Commander is fucking.  What he is fucking the lower part of my body.  I do not say making love, because this is not what he’s doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved.  Nor does rape cover it; nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for.  There wasn’t a lot of choice but there was some, and this is what I chose.  Therefore I lie still and picture the unseen canopy over my head.  I remember Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughter:  Close your eyes and think of England.  But this is not England.  I wish he would hurry up . …Serena Joy grips my hands as if it is she, not I, who’s being fucked, as if she find it either pleasurable or painful, and the Commander fucks, with a regular two-four marching stoke, on and on like a tap dripping.  He is preoccupied, like a man humming to himself in the shower without knowing he’s humming; like a man waiting for himself to come, drumming his fingers on the table while he waits.  There’s an impatience in his rhythm now.  But isn’t this everyone’s wet dream, two women at once?  They used to say that.  Exciting, they used to say.  What’s going on in this room, under Serena Joy’s silvery canopy, is not exciting.  It has nothing to do with passion or love or romance or any of those other notions we used to titillate ourselves with. It has nothing to do with sexual desire, at least for me, and certainly not for Serena.  Arousal and orgasm are no longer thought necessary; they would be a symptom of frivolity merely, like jazz garters or beauty spots; superfluous distractions for the light-minded. 


p. 104 Masturbation: I can listen to my own heartbeat against the bedsprings, I can stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark…


p. 50 Adultery: Will I ever be in a hotel room again?  How I wasted them, those rooms, that freedom from being seen.  Rented license.  In the afternoons, when Luke was still in flight from his wife, when I was still imaginary for him.  Before we were married, and I solidified.  …I can remember what I wore, each blouse, each scarf, I would pace, waiting for him, turn the television on and off, dab behind my ears with perfume.  Opium it was.  …. The knock would come at the door.  I’d open, with relief, desire.


 p. 22--Sex. allusion, masturbation, hostility male/female relationships: As we walk away I know they’re watching, these two men who aren’t yet permitted to touch women.  They touch with their eyes instead and I move my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me.  It’s like thumbing your nose from behind a fence or teasing a dog with a bone held out of reach, and I’m ashamed of myself for doing it…Then I find I’m not ashamed after all.  I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there.  I hope they get hard at the sight of us and to rub themselves against the painted barriers, surreptitiously.  They will suffer, later, at night, in their regimented beds.  They have no outlets now except themselves…


p. 56 Crude, pornographic: I’m giving an underwhore party….You know, like Tupperware, only with underwear. Tarts’ stuff.  Lace crotches, snap garters. Bras that push your tits up….You’re never too young to learn, she says.  Come on, it’ll be great.  We’ll all pee in our pants laughing.


p. 73,74  Graphic description of woman’s menstrual cycle:  Now the flesh arranges itself differently.  I’m a cloud, congealed around a central  object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real that I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping….Every month there is a moon, gigantic, round, heavy, an omen.  It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of sight, and I see despair coming towards me like famine. 


p. 114 Crude sex. allus.: Some man with a searchlight looking up between her legs, where she’s been shaved, a mere beardless girl…


p. 155 Sexual perversion: Also, there had been a letdown of sorts.  What had I been expecting, behind that closed door, the first time?  Something unspeakable, down on all fours perhaps, perversions, whips, mutilations?  At the very least some minor sexual manipulation, some bygone peccadillo now denied him…


p. 121 Dysfunctional view of male/female relations, severe denigration of men: “I don’t want a man around, what use are they except for ten seconds’ worth of half babies.  A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women.  Not that your father wasn’t a nice guy and all, but he wasn’t up to fatherhood.  Not that I expected it of him.  Just do the job, then you can bugger off, I said….But there’s something missing in them, even the nice ones.  It’s like they’re permanently absent-minded, like they can’t quite remember who they are.  They look at the sky too much….They aren’t a patch on a woman except they’re better at fixing cars and playing football, just what we need for the improvement of the human race, right?


p. 144 Distortion of male/female relationships, Mock of Chr.: Men are sex machines, said Aunt Lydia, and not much more.  They only want one thing.  You must learn to manipulate them, for your own good.  Lead them around by the nose; that is a metaphor.  It’s nature’s way.  It’s God’s device.  It the way things are.


p. 160,161 Crude, graphic sex, the making of sex seem dirty and awful: The lights were on, as usual, since Serena Joy always avoided anything that would have created an aura of romance or eroticism, however slight:  overhead lights, harsh despite the canopy.  It was like being on an operating table, in the full glare; like being on a stage.  I was conscious  that my legs were hairy, in the straggly way of legs that have once been shaved but have grown back; I was conscious of my armpits, too, although of course he couldn’t see them.  I felt uncouth.  This act of copulation, fertilization perhaps, which should have been no more to me than a bee is to a flower, had become for me indecorous, an embarrassing breach of propriety, which it hadn’t been before.  He was no longer a thing to me.  That was the problem.


p. 172 Lesbianism and promiscuous lesbianism normalized and justified: I said she didn’t have that problem herself anymore, since she’d decided to prefer women, and as far as I could see she had no scruples about stealing them or borrowing them when she felt like it.  She said it was different, because the balance of powers was equal between women so sex was an even-steven transaction. 


p. 222 Lesbianism allus.: How much you want to bet she’s got Janine down on her knees?  What you think they get up to in that office of hers?  I bet she’s got her working away on that dried-up old withered--


p. 249 Lesbianism: I’m still here, you can see it’s me.  Anyway, look at it this way:  it’s not so bad, there’s lots of women around.  Butch paradise, you might call it.


p. 181 Sex. allus.  How does he feel, pimping in this ambiguous way for the Commander?  Does it fill him with disgust, or make him want more of me, want me more? 


p. 181 Sex. Graphic: Acts of perversion, for all he knows.  The Commander and me, covering each other with ink, licking it off, or making love on stacks of forbidden newsprint.


p. 218 Crude Sex, Mock of Chr.: I try to imagine him in bed with his wife and his Handmaid, fertilizing away like mad, like a rutting salmon, pretending to take not pleasure in it.  When  the Lord said be fruitful and multiply, did he mean this man?


p. 254 Sex, graphic: When I come out he’s lying down on the king-sized bed, with, I note, his shoes off.  I lie down beside him, I don’t have to be told.  I would rather not; but it’s good to lie down, I am so tired  …But my silence does not deter him.  “Tomorrow, isn’t it?” he says softly. “I thought we could jump the gun.”  He turns towards me.  …He’s stroking my body now, from stem as they say to stern, cat stroke along the left flank, down the left leg.  He stops at the foot, his fingers encircling the ankle, briefly, like a bracelet, where the tattoo is, a Braille he can read, a cattle brand.   It means ownership.  …He sits up, begins to unbutton. Will this be worse, to have him denuded, of all his cloth power?  He’s down to the shirt; then, under it, sadly, a little belly  Wisps of hair.  He pulls down one of my straps, slides his other hand in among the feathers, but it’s no good, I lie there like a dead bird. He is not a monster, I think. I can’t afford pride or aversion, there are all kinds of things that have to be discarded, under the circumstances.  …Fake, it I scream at myself inside my head.  You must remember how. Let’s get this over with or you’ll be here all night.  Bestir yourself.. Move your flesh around, breathe audibly. It’s the least you can do.


p. 227 Promiscuity promoted: If you don’t like it, change it, we said, to each other and to ourselves.  And so we would change the man, for another one.  Change, we were sure, was for the better always. 


p. 145 Sex. allus.  …my mother explained mistress, she did not believe in mystification, I had a pop-up book of sexual organs by the time I was four.


p. 230 Sex. allus. pornography: He’s holding a handful, it seems of feathers, mauve and pink.  Now he shakes this out.  It’s a garment, apparently, and for a woman:  there are the cups for the breasts, covered in purple sequins.  The sequins are tiny stars.  The feathers are around the thigh holes, and along the top. 


p. 230. 231 Pornography: “You expect me to put that on?” I say…Still there is something attractive in the idea…yet there’s an enticement in this thing…and it would be so flaunting, such a sneer at the Aunts, so sinful, so free….Now we may come to it, his deep-down real desire.  Does he have a pony whip, hidden behind the door?  Will he produce boots, bend himself or me over the desk?


p. 235 Sex. allus. :The women on the other hand are tropical, they are dressed in all kinds of bright festive gear.  Some of them have on outfits like mine, feathers and glister, cut high up the thighs, low over the breasts.  Some are in olden-days lingerie, shortie nightgowns, baby-doll pajamas, the occasional see-through negligee.  Some are in bathing suits, one piece or bikini; one, I see, wearing a crocheted affair, with big scallop shells covering the tits.  Some are in jogging shorts and sun halters, some in exercise costume like the ones they used to show on television, body-tight, with knitted pastel leg warmers.  There are even a few in cheerleaders’ outfits, little pleated skirts, outsized letters across the chest. 


p. 236 Sex. allus: He is showing me off, to them, and they understand that, they review my breasts, my legs, as if there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.


p. 237 Validation of sexual promiscuity and prostitutes denigration of women: “I thought this sort of thing was strictly forbidden,” I say.  “Well, officially,” he says.  “But everyone’s human, after all.”…you can’t cheat Nature,” he says.  “nature demands variety, for men….Women know that instinctively.  Why did they buy so many different clothes, in the old days?  To trick the men into thinking they were several different women.  A new one each day.”


p. 238, 239 Sex. allus, crude: It’s strapless, wired from the inside, pushing up the breasts, but it doesn’t quite fit Moira, it’s too large, so that one breast is plumped out and the other one isn’t.  She’s tugging absent-mindedly at the top, pulling it up.  There’s a wad of cotton attached to the back, I can see it as she half turns; it looks like sanitary pad that’s been popped like a piece of popcorn. I realize that it’s supposed to be a tail. 


p. 260 Sex graphic: He’s in his shirt sleeves, and is holding a cigarette, lit.  I smell the smoke on him, in the warm air of the room, all over.  I’d like to take off my clothes, bathe in it, rub it over my skin....He’s undoing my dress, a man made of darkness, I can’t see his face, and I can hardly breathe, hardly stand, and I’m not standing.  His mouth is on me, his hands, I can’t wait and he’s moving, already, love , its been so long, I’m alive in my skin, again, arms around him, falling and water softly everywhere, never-ending.  I knew it might only be once.


p. 261 Crude Sex: I could just squirt it into a bottle and you could pour it in, he says.  He doesn’t smile.


p. 269 Sex and model of unfaithfulness: He steps aside and I move past him and he closes the door.  Then he crosses the room and close the window. After that he turns out the light.  There is not much talking between us anymore, not at this stage.  Already I am half out of my clothes.  We save the talking for later.  ...I want to see what can be seen, of him, take him in, memorize him, save him up so I can live on the image, later:  the lines of his body, the texture of his flesh, the glisten of sweat on his pelt, his long sardonic unrevealing face.  I ought to have done that with Luke, paid more attention to the details, the moles and scars, the singular creases; I didn’t and he’s fading.  Day by day, night by night he recedes, and I become more faithless. 



pg. 3  Sexual allusion: There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name.  I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or in the television room with the sound turned down and only the pictures flickering over lifting flesh.


p.4  Sex. allus: Something could be exchanged, we thought, some deal made, some tradeoff, we still had our bodies.  That was our fantasy.


p. 21-Sexual fantasy: What if I were to come at night, when he’s on duty alone--though he would never be allowed such solitude--and permit him beyond my white wings?  What if I were to peel off my red shroud and show myself to him, to them, by the uncertain light of the lanterns? 


p. 37 Sex. allusion: Even men used to say, I’d like to get laid.  Though sometimes they said, I’d like to lay her.


p. 38 Sex. allus: What’s your paper on?  I just did one on date rape.  Date rape, I said.  You’re so trendy.  It sounds like some kind of dessert. Date rape’.


p. 52 Sex. Allus. The stains on the mattress.  Like dried flower petals.  Not recent.  Old love; there’s no other kind of love in this room now.  When I saw that, the evidence left by two people, of love or something like it, desire at least, at least touch, between two people now perhaps old or dead, I covered the bed again and lay down on it…..I wanted to feel Luke lying beside me.


p. 65 Sex. allus: I will not be able to wash myself, this evening, not afterwards, not for a day.  It interferes, they say, and why take chances.


p. 66 Graphic descript. of practice for giving birth: You can always practice, said Aunt Lydia.  Several sessions a day, fitted into your daily routine.  Arms at the side, knees bent, lift the pelvis, roll the backbone down.  Tuck.  Again.  Breathe in to the count of five, hold, expel.


p. 89 Sex. allus, allusion to masturbation, profanity.  They send two guys with you, in the ambulance.  Think about it.  They must be starved for it, shit, they aren’t even allowed to put their hands in their pockets, the possibilities are---


p. 91 Sex. allus. For our purposes your feet and your hands are not essential….She shouldn’t have tried it, not with the Angels…


p. 98 Sex in distorted relation outside of marriage, justified as imagining this is her husband: He puts his hand on my arm, pulls me against him, his mouth on mine, what else comes from such denial?  Without a word.  Both of us, shaking, how I’d like to.  In Serena’s parlor, with the dried flowers, on the Chinese carpet, his thin body.  A man entirely unknown.  It would be like shouting, it would be like shooting someone.  My hand goes down, how about that, I could unbutton, and then….I want to reach up, taste his skin, he makes me hungry.  His fingers move, feeling my arm under the nightgown sleeve, as if his hand won’t listen to reason.  It’s so good, to be touched by someone, to be felt so greedily, to feel so greedy.  Luke, you’d know, you’d understand.  It’s you here, in another body.


p. 123 Graphic description of birthing, but in distorted context to give young people very dirty feel about giving birth: …In the corner of the room there’s a bloodstained sheet, bundled and tossed there, from when the waters broke….the room smells too, the air is close, they should open a window.  The smell is of our own flesh, an organic smell, sweat and a tinge of iron, from the blood on the sheet, and another smell, more animal, that’s coming, it must be, from Janine:  a smell of dens….  “Breathe, breathe,” we chant, as we have been taught.  “Hold, hold.  Expel, expel, expel.”  Janine, her eyes closed, tries to slow her breathing.  Aunt Elizabeth feels for the contractions….Already I can feel slight pains, in my belly, and my breasts are heavy.  Janine screams, a weak scream, partway between a scream and a groan.  “She’s going into transition,” says Aunt Elizabeth.  One of the helpers wipes Janine’s forehead with a damp cloth.  Janine is sweating now, her hair is escaping in wisps from the elastic band, bits of it stick to her forehead and neck.  Her flesh is damp, saturated, lustrous.  “Pant! pant! pant!” we chant…. “No, she screams, “Oh no, oh no oh no.”….She’s grunting now, with the effort.  “Push, push, push,” we whisper.  “Relax. Pant. Push, push , push.”  We’re with her, we’re the same as her, we’re drunk.  Aunt Elizabeth kneels, with an outspread towel to catch the baby, here’s the crowning, the glory, the head, purple and smeared with yoghurt, another push and it slithers out, slick with fluid and blood, into our waiting.  Oh praise. 


 p. 135 Sex. allus. maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open.


p. 136 Degradation of women and love: We are for breeding purposes: we aren’t concubines, geisha girls, courtesans.  On the contrary:  everything possible has been done to remove us from that category.  There is supposed to be nothing entertaining about us, no room is to be permitted for the flowering of secret lusts; no special favors are to be wheedled, by them or us, there are to be no toeholds of love.  We are two-legged wombs, that’s all; sacred vessels, ambulatory -chalices.


p. 138, 139  Sex. allus, Making vice a virtue: Now it’s forbidden, for us  Now it’s dangerous.  Now it’s indecent.  Now it’s something he can’t do with his Wife.  Now it’s desirable…It’s as if he’s offered me drugs….This is like being on a date.  This is like sneaking into the dorm after hours.  This is conspiracy.  “Thank you,” he says.   “For the game.”  Then he says, “I want you to kiss me.”


p. 153 Sex. allus, Mock Chr.. She was aiming, positioning the blades of the shears, then cutting with a convulsive jerk of the hands.  Was it the arthritis, creeping up?  Or some blitzkrieg, some kamikaze, committed on the swelling genitalia of the flowers.  The fruiting body…Saint Serena, on her knees, doing penance. 


p. 154 Sex. allus., denigration of marriage, normalization of affairs. The Commander and I have an arrangement.  It’s not the first such arrangement in history, though the shape it’s taken is not the usual one.   I visit the Commander two or three nights a week...but only when I get the signal….The difficulty is the Wife, as always.


p. 163 Sex. allus.  Inappropriate assumption of “norms”: The fact is that I’m his mistress.  Men at the top have always had mistresses, why should things be any different now? 


p. 171 Adultery normalized:  She disapproved of Luke, back then.  Not of Luke but of the fact that he was married.  She said I was poaching, on another woman’s ground.  I said Luke wasn’t a fish or a piece of dirt either, he was a human being and could make his own decision.  She said I was rationalizing.  I said I was in love.


p. 173 Denigrate marriage vows. …for the two years it took Luke to pry himself loose. 


p. 184 Sex. allus.  If it were sex it would be a swift furtive stand-up in an alley somewhere….This watching is a curiously sexual act, and I feel undressed while he does it. 


p. 186 Sex. allus.  What I see first is a picture: the Venus de Milo, in a black-and-white photo, with a mustache and a black brassiere and armpit hair drawn clumsily on her. 


p. 205 Sexual allusion: Serena suggests the Handmaid have sex with a different man since her husband the Commander hasn’t produced a child in her.


p. 214 Sex. allus: Agreed to it right away, really she didn’t care, anything with two legs and a good you-know-what was fine with her. 


p. 219 Sex. allus: Don’t you  remember the terrible gap between the ones who could get a man easily and the ones who couldn’t?  Some of them were desperate, they starved themselves thin or pumped their breasts full of silicone, had their noses cut off.


p. 222 Sex. allus.  Is anything wrong, dear?  the old joke went.  No why?  You moved.  Just don’t move.


p. 226 Sex perversion: Or you’d remember stories you’d read, in the newspapers, about women who had been found--often women but sometimes they would be men, or children, that was the worst--in ditches or forests or refrigerators or in abandoned rented rooms, with their clothes on or off, sexually abused or not; at any rate killed. 


p. 226 mistrust of men one loves


p. 230 Sex. allus.…young men tossing things onto the flames, armfuls of silk and nylon and fake fur, lime-green, red, violet; black satin, gold lame’, glittering silver; bikini underpants, see-through brassieres with pink satin hearts sewn on to cover the nipples. 


p. 238 Sex. allus. He could have called over a waitress, there are some of these, in identical black miniskirts with pompons on their breasts…


pp 252 Sex. allus.  I sit on the edge of the bathtub, gazing at the blank towels.  Once they would have excited me.  They would have meant the aftermath, of love.



p. 262  Sex. denigration: Possibly he wants something from me…some acknowledgement that he too is human, is more than just a seedpod….He shrugs, “I get paid,” he says, punk surliness. 


p. 268 Sex: I went back to Nick.  time after time, on my own, without Serena knowing.  It wasn’t called for, there was no excuse.  I did not do it for him, but for myself entirely.  I didn’t even think of it as giving myself to him, because what did I have to give?  I did not feel munificent, but thankful, each time he would let me in.  He didn’t have to. 


Suicide Related Quotes


p. 7 Suicide: They’ve removed anything you could tie a rope to.

    …but with no glass


p. 52 Suicide Allus. I looked carefully over the door first, inside and out, then the walls with their brass hooks--how could they have overlooked the hooks?  Why didn’t they remove them?  Too close to the floor?   But still, a stocking, that’s all you’d need. 


p. 53 Suicide: reference that previous “handmaid” had committed suicide


p. 62 Suicide allus. Except that the mirror over the sink has been taken out and replaced by an oblong of tin, and the door has no lock, and there are no razors, of course.  There were incidents in the bathrooms at first: there were cuttings, drownings.


p. 146 Suicide: Several days after this interview with her was filmed, she killed herself.  It said that, right on television.


p. 195 Suicide: I think about the chandelier too much, though it’s gone now.  But you could use a hook, in the closet.  I’ve considered the possibilities.  all you’d have to do, after attaching yourself, would be to lean your weight forward and not fight. 


p. 211 Suicide: From the center was the chandelier, and from the chandelier a twisted strip of sheet was hanging down.  That’ where she was swinging, just lightly, like a pendulum;  the way you could swing as a child, hanging by your hands from a tree branch….I feel buried.


p. 248 Suicide: I did consider offing myself, and maybe I would have if there’d been any way….So it was a no go. 

p. 285 Suicide: She hanged herself, she says.  After the Salvaging.  She saw the van coming for her.  It was better.


p. 292  Suicide:  There are a number of things I could do.  I could set fire to the house, for instance.  I could bundle up some of my clothes, and the sheets, and strike my one hidden match.  If it didn’t catch, that would be that.  But if it did, there would at least be an event, a sign of some kind to mark my exit.  A few flames, easily put out.  In the meantime I could let loose clouds of smoke and die by suffocation.    I could tear my bed sheet into strips and twist it into a rope of sorts and tie one end to the leg of my bed and try to break the window.  Which is shatterproof.  …Instead I could noose the bed sheet round my neck, hook myself up in the closet, throw my weight forward, choke myself off. 


Drugs, Drinking, and Smoking

p. 208 Promotion of smoking:


p. 238 Smoking and alcohol promoted: No nicotine-and-alcohol taboos here!  You see, they do have some advantages here.






p. 52 Profanity: Bastardes (in Latin) later expounded on in great detail


p. 93 Profanity: fuck, fucking


p. 99 Profanity: bullshit


p. 115 Profanity: bitch


p. 120 Profanity: shit, bitch, fuck that shit, for god sake,


p. 180 Profanity: Fucking pigs. Fucking bleeders


p. 184 Profanity: bitch


p. 186, 187 Sex. allus., crude, profanity:  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum….Don’t let the bastards grind you down.


p. 222 Profanity: Right fucking on.


p. 242 Profanity: hell


p. 244 Profanity: goddamn, ass





p. 72,73 Crude, excessive graphicness: I marvel again at the nakedness of men’s lives; the showers right out in the open, the body exposed for inspection and comparison, the public display of privates.  What is it for?  What purposes of reassurance does it serve?  The flashing of a badge, look, everyone, all is in order, I belong here.  Why don’t women have to prove to one another that they are women?  Some form of unbuttoning, some split-crotch routine, just as casual.  A doglike sniffing.


p. 80 Crude sex. allus. : It’s the scent of prepubescent girls, of the gifts young children use to give their mothers, for Mother’s Day; the smell of white cotton socks and white cotton petticoats, of dusting powder, of the innocence of female flesh not yet given over to hairiness and blood.


p. 62,62 Crude:  Pantyhose give your crotch rot, Moira used to say. 


p. 56 Crude, pornographic: I’m giving an underwhore party….You know, like Tupperware, only with underwear. Tarts’ stuff.  Lace crotches, snap garters. Bras that push your tits up….You’re never too young to learn, she says.  Come on, it’ll be great.  We’ll all pee in our pants laughing.


p. 89 Crude: Naughty puss.


p. 114 Crude: Some man with a searchlight looking up between her legs, where she’s been shaved, a mere beardless girl…


p. 186, 187 Sex. allus., crude, profanity:  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum….Don’t let the bastards grind you down.


p. 187 Crude: pim, pis, pit, pimus pistis pants.


p. 223 Crude: What does he want?  Kinky sex?


p. 243 Crude:  What’d you do?  Laugh at his dick?


. 249 Crude: Commanders don’t give a piss what we do in our off time.


p. 261 Crude Sex: I could just squirt it into a bottle and you could pour it in, he says.  He doesn’t smile.


Attack on the Christian Religion


p. 16 Mocking Christianity: I would watch the Growing Souls Gospel Hour, where they would tell Bible stories for children and sing hymns.  One of the women was called Serena Joy.  She was the lead soprano….She could smile and cry at the same time, one tear or two sliding gracefully down her cheek, as if on cue…  (the lead “wife,” portrayed as heartless and without morals)


p. 19 Mock Chr: Blessed be the fruit…May the Lord open…Praise be


p. 31--Mock Chr: The church  is a small one, one of the first erected here, hundreds of years ago….Inside you can see paintings, of women in long somber dresses, their hair covered by white caps, and of upright men, darkly clothes and unsmiling.  Our ancestors. (linking of Puritans with the state “religion” presented in the book)


p. 45 Vilifying Chr. character: Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home.  Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.


p. 51 Derogatory of Christianity, juxtaposing it with “real” fun: There were Bibles in the dresser drawers, put there by some charitable society, though probably no one read them very much.


p. 54 Mock Chr. Misquoting of most famous song, Amazing Grace


p. 55 Mock Chr. Sarcastic use of Hallelujah


p. 62 Chr. Mock:  Hair must be long but covered.  Aunt Lydia said: Saint Paul  said it’s either that or a close shave.  She laughed, that held-back neighing of hers, as if she’d told a joke.


p. 67 Chr. mock--use of word “Testifying” to refer to bad things that have happened to you, diametrical opposite of use in Christian circles, to tell of God’s goodness and grace in our lives


p. 64 Mock Chr: Misapplying Christ’s Beatitudes to the extreme unjust treatment of the handmaids


p. 89  Mock Chr: Reciting of Beatitudes to enforce their perverted society.


p. 87-90 Mock Chr. Use Bible reading to justify the distorted, perverted suppression and sexual exploitation of women in the society. “Now we will have a moment of silent prayer,” says the Commander. “We will ask for a blessing, and for success in all our ventures.” uses traditional, very frequent instruction from church for this blasphemous misuse.


p. 90 Mock Chr.: I pray silently--Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. (Don’t let the bastards get the best of me.) Juxtaposition of “prayer” with profanity


p. 114 Mock Chr: Use the scripture, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” as justification for denying anesthetics.


p. 117 Mock Chr: Citing statement as if from Bible that is not


p. 144 Distortion of male/female relationships, Mock of Chr.: Men are sex machines, said Aunt Lydia, and not much more.  They only want one thing.  You must learn to manipulate them, for your own good.  Lead them around by the nose; that is a metaphor.  It’s nature’s way.  It’s God’s device.  It the way things are.


p. 153 Sex. allus, Mock Chr.. She was aiming, positioning the blades of the shears, then cutting with a convulsive jerk of the hands.  Was it the arthritis, creeping up?  Or some blitzkrieg, some kamikaze, committed on the swelling genitalia of the flowers.  The fruiting body…Saint Serena, on her knees, doing penance. 


p. 167 Mock of Chr, allusion to name for certain conservative Christians; making prayer a mockery:  these machines are known as Holy Rollers.  There are five different prayers:  for health, wealth, a death, a birth, a sin.  You pick the one you want, punch in the number, then punch in your own number so your account will be debited, and punch in the number of times you want the prayer repeated.  The machines talk as they print out the prayers;  if you like, you can go inside a listen to them, the toneless metallic voices repeating the same thing over and over. 


p. 173 Mock Chr: juxtapose The Book of Job with her job as a sexual handmaid


p. 194 Mock of Chr: women forced to pray by electric cattle prod, parody of Christian prayers: O God, King of the universe, thank you for not creating me a man.  Oh God, obliterate me.  Make me fruitful.  Mortify my flesh, that I may be multiplied.  Let me be fulfilled. 


p. 212 Mock Chr.: use of term “Prayvaganza” in conjunction for false show of piety


p. 218 Crude Sex, Mock of Chr.: I try to imagine him in bed with his wife and his Handmaid, fertilizing away like mad, like a rutting salmon, pretending to take not pleasure in it.  When  the Lord said be fruitful and multiply, did he mean this man?


p. 243 Mock Chr; sex allus: It’s like screwing on the altar or something…



p. 247 Mock Chr, attributing all this to Christians): As long as you said you were some sort of a Christian and you were married, for the first time that is, they were still leaving you pretty much alone. 


p. 271 Mock Chr: use of  “Particicution” as play on persecution, such as crusades, for the vicious attack and murder of an innocent man by girls.