The Handmaid’s Tale

by: Margaret Atwood

Important Quotations Explained

1
Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.

This quotation is from the end of Chapter 6. Offred and Ofglen are standing by the Wall, looking at the bodies of people who have been hanged by Gilead. The sight horrifies Offred, but she strains to push aside her repugnance and substitute an emotional “blankness.” As she represses her natural revulsion, she remembers Aunt Lydia’s words about how life in Gilead will “become ordinary.” Aunt Lydia’s statement reflects the power of a totalitarian state like Gilead to transform a natural human response such as revulsion at an execution into “blankness,” to transform horror into normalcy. Aunt Lydia’s words suggest that Gilead succeeds not by making people believe that its ways are right, but by making people forget what a different world could be like. Torture and tyranny become accepted because they are “what you are used to.”


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