Looking for homework help that takes the stress out of studying? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood
Quotes

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained
He 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.