was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait:
he whistled, offkey, in the shower, he had a yen for truffles, he
called his dog Liebchen and made it sit up for little pieces of
raw steak. How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all.
What an available temptation.
In this quotation, from Chapter 24,
Offred remembers a documentary that she watched about a woman who
was the mistress of a Nazi death camp guard. She recalls how the
woman insisted that her lover was not a “monster,” and she compares
that woman’s situation to her own, as she spends her evenings with
the Commander and comes to almost like him. The Commander seems
like a good person: he is kind, friendly, genial, and even courtly
to Offred. Yet he is also the agent of her oppression—both directly,
as her Commander, and indirectly, through his role in constructing
the oppressive edifice of Gileadean society. Like the concentration
camp guard, he is “not a monster, to her”; yet he is still a monster.
Offred suggests that it is “easy,” when you know an evil person
on a personal level, to “invent a humanity” for them. It is a “temptation,” she
says, meaning that no one wants to believe that someone they know
is a monster. But in the case of the Commander, that temptation
must be resisted. He may be kind and gentle, but he still bears responsibility
for the evil of Gilead.