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The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood
Quotes

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained
I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . 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 than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.

This passage is from Chapter 13, when Offred sits in the bath, naked, and contrasts the way she used to think about her body to the way she thinks about it now. Before, her body was an instrument, an extension of her self; now, her self no longer matters, and her body is only important because of its “central object,” her womb, which can bear a child. Offred’s musings show that she has internalized Gilead’s attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as objects important only for the children that they can bear. Women’s wombs are a “national resource,” the state insists, using language that dehumanizes women and reduces them to, as Offred puts it, “a cloud, congealed around a central object, which is hard and more real than I am.”